Fat Butcher's Photosonica
North London V-tard splicing beauty to the beats

Lost Highway @ Young Vic

I hadn’t seen the film or heard anything about Lost Highway at the Young Vic, and until I saw ENO on the posters in the foyer, I hadn’t realised we were about to immerse ourselves in an opera. The set of this production was an inspiring feat; a perspex box suspended over a catwalk, with a spiral staircase that descended on wires to allow characters to enter from the ceiling, and then access the box from the ground. A motorcycle and a car also featured. Every part of the stage and scenery was used as a platform at one point or another for… well, some of this:

I have to say that whilst my feelings on the show don’t stray too far from those expressed in this review, I do intend to seek out the film now and try and make sense of the story – there’s bound to be one in there amongst the tangle of MEANINGFUL plot points and SIGNIFICANT dialogue. The use of projection was superb – four screens facing the four lateral faces of the suspended cube, which represented an LA apartment and a jail cell. One character appeared sparodically holding a camcorder to his eye, and the live feed was relayed to the four screens, sometimes overlaid with filtered flickery footage of roads at night, sometimes of the characters going at it doggy-style. This intimate voyeuristic trick worked pretty well as a way to get up uncomfortably close to the characters, who otherwise remained as opaque and taciturn as you would expect from Lynch. The performers’ mic feeds were distorted on and off, processed at times to create a haunting mechanical howl. The high position of the screens meant they were visible from in front and behind, and the beams from the projector were visible in the haze from the smoke machines, aptly, as a voyeur’s secretly-captured footage of a couple’s private moments informs part of the story early on. Disturbance and violence were the key moods, deception and paranoia the themes, and the technology brought these out beautifully, feeding us clues while the dialogue withheld them.

Perspex cube part of stage with 1 of 4 screens visible in background.

You never forget in a Lynch story that you are being manipulated, that these are images and those are words and this isn’t really happening. By returning us to the medium with such brutal insistence he forces us to question the text, the subtext, and whether or not we can believe anything we’ve seen. As Fred Madison, the jazz musician sentenced to death for the murder of his wife, declares when asked why he hates video cameras: ‘I prefer to remember things the way I remember them, rather than the way they happened.’

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