Under Glass

There is a specific moment that stands out for me in Clod Ensemble’s Under Glass.  We’ve moved into a side area of the stage and we’re looking down on a man and a woman who are lying on a circular cushion under a circular glass surface, moving slowly and purposefully together and apart, possibly asleep.  Their facial expressions convey just enough emotion to wonder at what they are thinking.  Their bodies seem to flow like cellular structures in a petri dish under the microscope.  I could have watched this for a long time, picking out the minute detail of their every movements.

There are a total of seven ‘specimens’ on show, illuminated individually or sometimes in small groups within an otherwise pitch black environment.  In each, a performer is trapped in a small part of their life, inside a glass (or maybe perspex) case.  These range from large rectangular cases in which the performer can move freely, perhaps only sideways, to tiny jars that compress and contort the body.  It’s like being in a lab, or perhaps a private zoo.  My friend suggested that it was like watching jellyfish swimming up and down the vertical glass tube in an aquarium.

The central thread is provided by the beautiful Alice Oswald poem Village.  In an otherwise wordless performance this spoken word, performed by a conservatively dressed lady on the telephone in a tall cylindrical glass tube, reminds us that we are watching real people, not specimens, who live somewhere between life and death.

Disturbing and irresistible in equal measure, this performance draws you in, and encourages you to look closely at what it is to be human. Stunning.

Lowry, Salford, 18-21 Oct 2017, in association with Manchester Science Festival.

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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