Todd and Kali are the perfect couple. Beautiful, intelligent and completely in tune with each other to the point of predicting each other’s movements and words. Tomorrow they will travel to Stockholm to celebrate Todd’s birthday, but will they survive that long? Charlotte Marshall was in the first night audience to find out.
Written by Bryony Lavery, Stockholm grants the audience an intimate look into the life of a seemingly perfect pair (Georgina Lamb and Samuel James). Taking place on Todd’s birthday, Kali is determined to give him a memorable day and as they dance around the kitchen, roses bursting from the walls in moments of (often quite graphic) ecstasy, we are drawn into their enviable partnership, all poetry and declarations of undying love. However, when the stage is plunged into red light and Todd is dragged towards the ceiling, his voice suddenly satanic and his face wrenched in agony, we realise that their perfect façade is hiding something far darker.
Produced by physical theatre company Frantic Assembly, the play is staged using movement and dance to gain insight into the characters’ state of minds. Perfectly choreographed, the actors use every available surface and space, lifting each other as if they weigh nothing and moving as one entity. When describing to the audience how they met in a restaurant, the couple acts out what they would have liked to be doing to each other at that moment, in typical physical theatre manner complete with knives and forks and other kitchenware props. The scene is sinisterly mirrored towards the end of the play when Kali’s irrational behaviour, previously affectionately referred to as “retro-jealousy”, turns into a violent explosion.
Taking place on a revolving stage, the set first appears to portray a perfect Ikea existence, further reflecting their successful demeanour with ipods and expensive toys scattered around. But as you look deeper, nothing is quite as it should be – sand covers the floor, there is a water filled desk which Kali plunges herself into as she drowns in insecurity, and the bed, a centre point of their relationship, is tilted from the ceiling at a dangerous angle that leaves the audience dizzy.
Stockholm creates an unsettling experience, as over the course of the evening the audience witnesses a relationship unravel into a violent, abusive nightmare that seems all too familiar to the couple. Frantic Assembly’s added touches through movement and twisted perspective make this play a unique theatrical experience.
Stockholm is showing at Hampstead theatre until 24 May and