Yvonne McDevitt’s take on Fassbinder’s story of unruly desire and masochistic obsession contains flashes of directorial brilliance and moments of powerful emotion. As central character Petra, a successful fashion designer, falls apart, the increasingly surreal and dream-like nature of her perceptions is beautifully and subtly rendered.
Mobile spotlights at the four corners of the main playing space are operated by the performers, adding to the non-naturalistic feel of the piece. Phone voices are uncannily muffled and synthesized, coming from several directions at once – bells toll ominously offstage, words are amplified and distorted in this psychic echo chamber. The characters awkwardly mirror each other at times, showing us the oddness of this dissonant world of internalized passion.
McDevitt risks a slow start to ease you into the production’s style. This pays off magnificently. The cavernous, chilly space of the London Bridge arches gives a junkstore aesthetic to the play, a kind of rusty Aladdin’s cave in which performers shift in and out of Petra’s fractured world.
The actors often talk to each other from opposite ends of the space, walking in geometrical avoidance of their obsessions. Sasha Behar gives Petra an extraordinary intensity while Anna Egsmeth’s Marlene is the silent heart of the drama, conveying so much about love and self-sacrifice just in the way she crosses the stage space in short, contained steps.