Fri 24th February 2012


Florence Strickland

at 17:58 on 25th Feb 2012



On the night of Durham Drama Festival’s site-specific evening, entailing a tour of plays around Durham, ‘Incognito’ presented itself in an intimate setting in The Assembly Rooms. The audience were only separated from the performance by three rows of tiered seating, set right up on the stage. We were welcomed by ethereal church music – which developed to an eerie, modernist sound - while the Man and Shadow were all ready awaiting us. This was the basis for the most thought provoking, and challenging narrative that I have seen at the Festival so far.

With the cold blue eyes that he scripted himself, Michael McLauchlan’s performance as the brutal father of Friedrich, Viktor Michael, was convincing – albeit a little one note. However, his script was exceptional; a dual narrative in the darkness and the light, which at some points had a Shakespearean, poetic quality, but also an evident influence of Plato’s theory of the cave. Thankfully, it was safely poised before the brink of being overly complex or grandiloquent. Frederico Mollet introduced the play as a priest, with a typical funeral reading from the book of Genesis - the approach to and reflection on Christianity being a driving force to the play, in the context of self-perception and the afterlife. One half of the narrative witnesses the Man, whom we vaguely assume is in hell after a while, as his Shadow torments him whilst they are tied together by the ankle. Elizabeth Briggs captured the irony and caustic nature of this poltergeist-like character, but with a far more ominous presence than a Potter-esque Peeves. Hence, Michael’s presentation of the underworld reminded me a little of Beckett’s ‘Waiting for Godot’ with its sense of a frustratingly never-ending existence. The direction of Michael McLauchlan and Idgie Beau, saw that this tense and, for the Man, disorientating relationship was carried out with a sophisticated refinement. The Shadow’s angular movements in contrast to the Man’s fruitless wanderings in search of a way out – rather than facing up to the truth as the Shadow demands – resulted in a chilling performance.

The other half was equally disturbing with its portrayal of two young boys in, what is later revealed as, Nazi Germany. At first they are united in their desire, like the Man, to be free in the face of Friedrich’s demoniac father and to express Lukas’ more frequently apparent homosexuality – at one point reciprocated by Freidrich. However Viktor Michael’s enforcement of Nazi and puritanical Christian ideals leads Freidrich to eventually become corrupted and join the army, deciding to “send Lukas away” for his homosexuality. As the two stories progress, the unanswered questions throughout the play begin to be answered – such as why the Shadow refers to the Man as “captain”. The plots eventually collide with a simultaneous dialogue spoken by Man and Freidrich, and Lukas and Shadow; the audience is finally shown that the tormented captain is Freidrich in the afterlife. Especial notice should be given to Henry Morris who showed a sensitive development from an adolescent complaining of Virgil to an apparently hardened one spouting Fuhrer and fatherland.

The links between the two worlds presented, raise fundamental philosophical questions as to our perceptions of reality and the society we live in. Michael McLauchlan encourages us to question these perceptions in the pursuit of truth.


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