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Lady Eats Apple review at Barbican Theatre, London – ‘an ambitious metaphysical triptych’

The cast of Lady Eats Apple at Barbican Theatre, London. Photo: Jeff Busby

The work of Australian company Back to Back Theatre is co-created and performed by actors with learning disabilities. The dizzyingly ambitious Lady Eats Apple takes the form of a theatrical triptych exploring life, death and the creation of the universe. A special seating area has been constructed on the Barbican Theatre stage and the performance takes place within a huge black tent created by designer Mark Cuthbertson. The audience listen to the dialogue through headphones.

In the beginning Scott Price’s god creates the world and names the animals in it. Then he creates Man (Simon Laherty) and Lady (Sarah Mainwaring) and though he forbids then from eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge, being human, they go and do it anyway.

This scene is followed by sonic overload reminiscent of the trippier bits of 2001: A Space Odyssey followed by an audacious coup de theatre in which the black tent falls away to reveal the vast empty auditorium of the Barbican Theatre – the world inverted.

Two shorter scenes follow. In the first Laherty and Mainwaring deal with a patronising supervisor at work before deciding to go on a date together, and in the second they have to deal with a man having a medical emergency, hovering on the edge of death.

Bruce Gladwin’s production encompasses the birth of love and the end of life, the mundane and the profound. It came feel a bit chilly and remote at times – the headphones have a distancing effect– but the image of two people awkwardly exploring their attraction to one another while surrounded by a sea of empty seats is an undeniably striking one.

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Ambitious metaphysical triptych devised by performers with learning disabilities