Under Ice review at Summerhall, Edinburgh – ‘relentless’
A pair of besuited figures in Daft Punk helmets watch over a similarly besuited man slumped in a chair, separated by a sea of discarded water bottles and screens screaming white noise. When the man quietly speaks into the sphere of microphones surrounding him, it merely adds to the foreboding in this Glengarry Glen Ross meets Brazil (and possibly The Circle) created by Arturo Areimos Teatras.
The man narrates his life, his vision, his work at the office. He doesn't move from his chair. The other two – his line manager and HR person – berate him for his lack of motivation, and the more they up the pressure, the more we sense their desperation to convince themselves rather than the object of their scorn.
There's a lot to take in. The language is Lithuanian surtitled in searing English translations, while screens flicker with clips of Soviet images of family and work with kitschsy Americana and global politicians. A throbbing soundtrack ebbs and flows through a cacophony of projected slogans proclaiming strategy, goal building and career solutions.
Meanwhile, Rokas Petrauskas, Dovydas Stoncius and Tomas Rinkunas deliver full-on punk demagoguery, screaming and whimpering to drive home the message that “the job's a drug” and only the fittest survive.
German playwright Falk Richter’s script reveals immense poetry and a channelled, if relentless, aggression. Offering very much a northern European director's vision, Arturas Areima takes blistering symbolism to ensure that Under Ice gets you thinking long after about the culture of burnout and totalitarianism.