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Locus Amoenus review at the Lowry, Salford – ‘meticulous’

Locus Amoenus at the Lowry, Salford Photo: Aaron Sanchez Locus Amoenus at the Lowry, Salford Photo: Aaron Sanchez
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Imagine. Three strangers on a train utterly unaware that instant death awaits them on the tracks ahead. A young woman fiddles with her rucksack, fishes out some lip balm, then loses herself completely in her headphones. Two young men – one English, one Spanish – share a joke, attempt a series of hilarious bilingual conversations and end up annoying each other – and the woman too. A digital clock projected on the wall behind them counts down the seconds. As the train hurtles towards the fatal derailment, we are constantly aware that all three are about to meet their doom.

Not, perhaps, a conventional vision of the sunny skies and pastoral idylls suggested by the title of this impeccably staged piece. But Barcelona-based theatre company Atresbandes, briefly visiting the compact Lowry studio as part of a new UK mini-tour, have clearly perfected the art of making the mundane appear meaningful and the everyday seem funny.

You can see why their meticulous performance, which was originally created in residence at mac Birmingham, turned out to be a highlight of the 2014 Gateshead International Festival of Theatre.

Overall, through an understated use of naturalistic dialogue combined with mime, sound effects, lighting, music and projected text, the three actors create unsettling pin-drop stuff – an almost voyeuristic 60 minutes of mounting dramatic tension that, in an remarkably non-funereal way, raises insightful questions about the illusion of immortality and getting the most out of life before the Grim Reaper appears in unexpected places, even on a train.

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A short but dramatic journey from routine start to fatal finish