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The Lover review at Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh – ‘nuanced dance theatre’

Amy Hollinshead and Kieran Brown in The Lover at Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh. Photo: Mihaela Bodlovic Amy Hollinshead and Kieran Brown in The Lover at Royal Lyceum Theatre, Edinburgh. Photo: Mihaela Bodlovic
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When Marguerite Duras was almost 16, she had a relationship with an older man that would inform her life and her writing. The impact of this relationship would finally find full release in her memoir, The Lover, published in 1984.

Fleur Darkin and Jemima Levick’s stage adaptation, part-theatre part-dance, frames this story of youthful love within an older woman’s memories. It gives weight to the difficulties of imbalanced power – made all the more pertinent in the wake of #MeToo – but also explores the role of memory and the way it can shape a life.

Susan Vidler gives a performance of great intimacy and power as the Woman. Superb work from sound designer Torben Lars Sylvest and his team ensures that her almost whispered live delivery is heard as if it were the narrative voice in a novel being read aloud. Vidler’s recorded voice is also put in the mouths of the dancers playing the Girl and the Man.

Darkin’s choreography ensures that the sex, which was central to the affair and to the book, is portrayed with some subtlety. It is erotic, certainly, but not titillating. Amy Hollinshead as the Girl is both childlike and controlling; a teenager who understands completely the power she has, even though she is unaware of its full consequences.

More unsettling is the Girl’s relationship with her older brother (Francesco Ferrari). While this is not mentioned in the narrative it is explored in depth in their danced encounters which ask much darker questions about the nature of the bond between them.

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Verdict
Unsettling yet nuanced combination of dance and theatre exploring a relationship between a younger woman and older
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