Adrian Osmond’s beautifully modulated direction
Under the deft direction of Adrian Osmond… this is an unsettling production, that leaves you shell shocked.
A terrific build-up of suspense… had me fully absorbed in its anti-hero’s existence and eager to know where his descent into fantasy would ultimately lead … terrific.
I can’t fault Adrian Osmond’s production, which deftly calibrates the creepiness as Adamsdale’s antihero chronicles his life from troubled March through to positively psychotic June.
Eric Bogosian is one of America’s most celebrated stage writers and performers. Written on the page as a diary, Notes from Underground traces the life of a New York loner as he slips through the cracks, and ultimately abducts two young children.
Will Adamsdale and I worked on two productions of Notes from Underground, separated by a nine-year gap. The first time we were in our mid-twenties and revelled in the script’s hilarity. Almost a decade later, moments that had seemed hysterical now appeared bleak and affecting. Notes became an acute study in loneliness and depression.
This obsessive and unpredictable character is the personification of the unreliable narrator. He appears to reveal his most intimate feelings, yet he often contradicts these a few diary entries later. (The one thing that remains steadfast is his deep admiration for CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather.) As he relates the details of increasingly bizarre adventures (such as entering a stranger’s house and taking a bath), it becomes impossible to tell where exactly the truth lies.
After abducting two pre-schoolers and setting off with them towards Disneyland, he writes, “The children are gone. I’m not sure where they are, but I guess that’s okay. What’s done is done, and I loved them a lot. ‘What goes around comes around.’ I guess. No reason to dwell. They are gone.” That’s the last we hear about them; there is no further explanation of what has unfolded, and the diary finishes a few paragraphs later.
Time and again, in the early stages of the performance, Will would draw the audience towards him with an unblinking gaze, and the audience would open up to the character’s vulnerability. Tension would grow as people recognised aspects of themselves within this troubled character, because a moment later they would want to distance themselves from his actions entirely.
The character often sat at a desk that was littered with trinkets, probably collected over many years. Near the end of the performance, he grabbed a garbage bag, swept everything off the desk and dumped the lot in the sack; then he began packing up the entire apartment, and put it all in the trash until the stage was bare. He stripped away his dirty clothes and dressed in a smart suit (he’d explained earlier, “I wear a suit and tie and I can go into any apartment building and go to any floor”). Then he explained that he had taken the kids. The character was cut loose of his mooring.
The audience was left with the image of a man in a suit, looking straight at them and smiling. It was like he was wearing a mask, denying everything that he had shared, everything that had unfolded. They had spent ninety minutes in his company, and yet were once again wondering, “Who are you, and what are you capable of?” And then, by extension, having forged a connection with him, the audience had to ask, “and also who are we?”