by Luke Bullock
I have to admit that I went to see Martin Crimp’s Fewer Emergencies with a degree of trepidation. Like many theatregoers these days I couldn’t resist the temptation to gen up on the various Google snippets about the play beforehand. Despite my preconception that Crimp’s piece would be overly arty and poetic, I found myself fascinated by the intriguing sight that greets the audience as soon as they enter the auditorium: a woman swinging on a swing, gazing into the middle distance. These thought-provoking moments continue throughout the piece, engrossing the audience at every step.
The play is composed of three parts, which at first glance seem completely autonomous. Immediately upon the first interjection by someone, apparently an audience member, you get a sense of a story being created in front of your eyes. The style is almost that of a script conference – the characters jostle for the right to progress the narrative or add intimate details. The performance therefore seems organic and fluid, with characters picking up and completing each other’s lines.
This fluidity is helped by the sheer pace that the actors bring to it, giving a lasting impression of creative intensity. The characters antagonise each other, but are ultimately highly imaginative and constructive in their exploration of the human psyche. The play is concerned with improvement and identity. It becomes increasingly obvious that the three sections are in fact inter-linked, and delve into aspects of one man’s life as he becomes ever more tortured and psychotic.
The sense of contortion in the piece is certainly a focus. Characters become increasingly neurotic and almost euphoric as the psychosis builds. Crimp attempts to highlight a society fascinated with violence and hurt. The tension reaches its explosive crescendo with the dark sexual creations of the characters, which contrast with the simple undertone of a boy searching for love. It is this search that forms the continuing theme of the piece – the questioning of the mother’s love in the first scene, a killer’s fascination with children holding hands, Bobby’s desperation for people to love him. The play is therefore haunting as well as graphic. The image at the end of Bobby climbing a spiral staircase in pursuit of an elusive swinging key – a key that will open a door that will make people love him – is desperate, and certainly leaves you thinking about this tortured soul. Fewer Emergencies is a fast paced, intense evening analysing the creative process, identity and love.
Fewer Emergencies is running in the late slot (9:30) at the Burton Taylor, Tuesday 16th-Saturday 20th October.