Review: I Am The Wind, Young Vic

“Is it possible not to want anything”

It is a good time for fans of neglected Scandinavian playwrights who are popular on the continent. The Young Vic’s I Am The Wind by Norwegian Jon Fosse follows the Orange Tree’s venture into the work of the Swedish Lars Norén with Autumn and Winter, but this is a truly international venture as directing this show is celebrated opera, film and theatre director Patrice Chéreau, making his English language début in any venture.

Simon Stephens’ English version works from a literal translation Øystein Ulsberg Brager to create something subtle, something ambiguous as the playwright(s) probe questions of desire and existence on a beautifully moving journey for two men, named simply The One and The Other, as they venture from a protected cove into the open ocean and quite literally into the unknown.

Chéreau has brought with him his creative team, some of whom he has been working with for over 40 years, and with great success. Richard Peduzzi’s design creates a vast expanse of space, a beach with a pool of water in its centre, which breathtakingly converts into a boat tossed about on ocean waves as the men’s journey takes them in deeper waters. Dominique Bruguière’s lighting works effortlessly, flitting from the calming, rippling pond effects to the dark tempestuous storm-tossed moments and is complemented beautifully by Éric Neveux’s ever-present music, building an atmosphere of reflection which suits the piece perfectly.

Tom Brooke and Jack Laskey are both excellent: Brooke as The One with an otherworldly feel, it is his character whose journey is most at the centre here yet he remains enigmatic throughout. Laskey as The Other trying to find out what is motivating his companion and relaying the events on the high seas and does well to generate emotion in the face of such opaque responses as those that he gets. Working with artistic collaborator Thierry Thieû Niang to develop a physical language for the show, of deliberate, almost choreographed movement, has worked wonders and the relationship that they manage to bring to life is superbly done, given the relative lack of help from the writing.

On paper, this really is not my kind of theatre: recent shows such as Pinter’s Moonlight and Stephens’ own Wastwater which make a virtue of their elliptical obscurity have not gone down well with me and I have to say that I really do not enjoy Beckett’s plays at all. But for some reason, I Am The Wind connected with me in a way that I was not expecting. Others leaving the show sneered at its sub-Beckettian aspirations, but if one considers it to be Beckett-lite, then that might explain why I liked it as it is free of the heavy modernist baggage that comes with his work (as I see it) and consequently has a greater elemental freshness.

It clearly isn’t for everyone, but theatre affects people in different ways and for myriad different reasons and I hope I’ve managed to articulate a few of the ways in which this show, albeit most unexpectedly, captivated me for the full 65 minutes. Feel free to disagree but for me, this was a beautifully mounted production of a play that asks questions of you, and for once I was inclined to answer – indeed, with the utterance of Brooke’s last lines, a shiver ran through me and a tear came to my eye.

Running time: 65 minutes (without interval)
Playtext cost: £3
Booking until 21st May

4 Replies to “Review: I Am The Wind, Young Vic”

  1. "Feel free to disagree" Well as you asked so nicely!

    As someone else who struggles with Wastwater and is not a Pinter or Beckett fan, in hindsight perhaps this was not the best choice of me. But, theatre is supposed to stretch the mind and challenge so with an open mind I went.

    For me though, while the staging was spectacular and the actors had real chemistry and tried their best, the source material let them down.

    While I appreciate shows that make me work and don't hand all the answers on a plate, IATW just had too much ambiguity to even begin to piece together a coherent plot. Its circular 'stories' just seemed overblown yet at the same time curiously paper thin. We never get to understand the motivation of the characters, if they are real, if it's imaginary and while that does allow an audience to overlay their own interpretation for me it comes back to poor structure.

    It would be interesting to know how Stephen's adaptation compares to Fosse's original text but again for me the dialogue is a poor imitation of Brecht/Pinter/Beckett that starves the piece of any hope.

    Well you did ask for disagreement!

  2. Clearly this is one that people are going to disagree on, but I'd like to reply to the point you made in the penultimate paragraph (Beckett comparisons).

    I didn't think it was Beckett-lite (and I don't think I sneered at it!). What I thought it was was someone taking the superficial aspects of Beckett – the bleakness, the lack of obvious context, etc. – and then applying it to a very different type of play. Love it or hate it, Waiting for Godot's style suits its content. I didn't think that was the case here; for me the "style" of I Am the Wind just highlighted the lack of content.

    The worst thing for me – and I confess to entirely stealing this point from Nick's LJ review, which I mostly agree with – is that the portrayal of The One's depression really didn't strike a chord for me at all. It should have done – I've had similar feelings to the ones attempting to be portrayed here (though not quite as bad, thank goodness!), but somehow this just felt studied and calculated. This, much like the rest of the play, just felt *too* completely devoid of any kind of context for me.

    To elaborate on that last point – I think the difference between this and Godot for me was that you fundamentally know what Godot is about: they're waiting for Godot! As such you can see how the rest of the play relates to that. I'm sure some will accuse I Am the Wind's critics of simply "not getting it" and maybe that's it – maybe I do just need things spelled out a bit more! I'd like to put this down to difference of opinion rather than some kind of intellectual failing on my part, though. 😉

    Curious reaction from the audience on Friday: rapturous applause at the end, but at least one mid-show walk out, and at least one boo during the curtain call, which I don't think I've ever heard before.

  3. P.S. Just returning to the point about depression – I don't blame Brooke for this at all. He's a stunningly good actor and he (moreso than the also-very talented Laskey) even managed to demonstrate that throughout thia play that I intensely disliked. Neither of the two seemed to be "acting" at any point, even though I didn't find the characters remotely convincing, which is no mean feat at all and they deserve all the credit in the world for this.

  4. Always good to see healthy debate! And I have no interest in trying to change your minds, though I do find it interesting that the disagreement on this show has been noisier than any I recall in quite some time.
    Personally, I just took this onboard as a completely different approach to theatre, thus notions of plot and character as we 'expect' them are bound to be frustrated as this is operating in a different context.
    I'd be interested in seeing a bit more European theatre of this ilk to see whether it was a one off, me liking it I mean, though I suspect I'll just be buying the single ticket 😉

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