by Catherine-Anne Toupin
Translated by Chris Campbell
It's a tough life as a famous literary character. One century you're pushed down a rabbit hole, then narrowly escape losing your head. And just when you think you're safe from out-of-control monarchy,you step through a looking glass.
And when you survive that, some playwright not content with leaving you on the bookshelf, gives you a twenty first century makeover as a bourgeois stay-at-home hallucinating, silk dressing-gown-clad housewife.
Doctor's wife Alice (Lindsey Campbell, last seen by TLT in The Harvest with the same director) spends her life currently sleeping and dreaming fitfully on the couch in an apartment she and her husband have themselves apparently given a chic makeover despite only being tenants.
Life seems to follow mechanically the same pattern: Hubby Ben (Sean Biggerstaff) goes to work at the hospital while Alice either dozes off or, far more worryingly, is plagued by the sound of an offstage crying baby.
Until a sudden knock at the double doors draws the couple into the surreal erotic world of vampish Juliette (Maureen Beattie), apparently newly returned from travels with suavely lustful author-come- medical researcher husband Gilles (Guy Williams) and oddball grown-up son, still-living-with-the-parents, François (Dyfan Dwyfor, also in The Harvest) across the hall.
Fluidly directed by Michael Boyd, the production benefits from a simple but evocatively coloured set from Madeleine Girling, psychologically visceral lighting from Oliver Fenwick and the hint of ballet mécanique in piano interludes from David Paul Jones.
With French names retained for all except the doctor, it's a studied "what if" 80-minute without interval piece. Maybe in addition to literary and surrealist painting references, there's a cinematic touch of Gaslight, So Long At The Fair and Belle De Jour, made somewhat predictable by signposting near the beginning of the play the exchange at the end.
But for all that, the predestination, gallery of grotesques and mirroring gives an energy to the performances and the play, despite some sagging in the second half, before the finale marked by perfect symmetry. An amber light for a piece where everything slots into place.