“The Stranger”

adapted from L’Etranger by Albert Camus by Morten Kirkskov

at Summerhall, Saturday 18th August 2012

An almost ungodly amount of haze floats round the stage. Spotlights tear through the fog to pick out A lonely figure sits on a chair, first in darkness but bathed in light within ten minutes. This is Meursault, hero of Albert Camus’ The Stranger. He tells us his story. It’s as simple as that.

Except it isn’t. Camus’ masterpiece of existentialist fiction considers nihilism, atheism and absurdism among other ‘isms’. By doing little more than cutting the original and shaping it to fit into an hour, Morten Kirkskov maintains both the integrity and the meaning behind the piece, as we see everything from Meursault’s eyes.

For the first third of the production, it does feel somewhat that we could be listening to an audiobook of Kirkskov’s adaptation and would not lose anything. Until twenty minutes in, very little is done in terms of staging and Guilherme Leme’s voice remains fairly monotonous. Slowly, however, Leme begins to move around the small square in which he is contained, looking for an escape from this tiny island he has built for himself.

The yearning to connect with the outside becomes more and more urgent as it becomes more and more socially impossible. As he is condemned to have his head cut off, the walls close around him. Leme’s performance becomes desperate as the piece continues, at one point breaking free from the square to run around in a circle; a nice visual signifier which highlights the difficulties of being a ‘square’ in a ‘circular’ world (as it were).

Throughout the piece, Meursault slowly dons a suit having started in boxers and a vest. Just at the point when he becomes fully clothed, however, his fate is sealed and once again the ensemble is destroyed. It’s a testament to his performance and the text that, doing little more than telling a story and getting dressed, Leme draws us closer and closer as he further questions his own existence. As he disappears, we become more present.

Some impressive tech work also adds to this effect of disconnect. The central black square is sharply defined by powerful lights, maintaining the idea of Meursault as a man completely pushed away from society. Coupled with some guttural music, it becomes clear that Kirkskov’s intention is to show that, though Camus’ hero is ‘outside’ the rest of the world, he is ‘inside’ his own one. Constantly, he is viewed through the haze, like the rest of us on a daily basis; to all intents and purposes, we can be seen, but in fact we will always remain a stranger.

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