Life Is a Dream review – an existential celebration to die for

Edinburgh’s Lyceum has reopened to live audiences after its long, Covid-forced closure. Its familiar, 19th-century, picture-frame theatre has been transformed. The wooden stage now thrusts out, into and over the stalls; the audience is seated behind as well as before the main proscenium arch. Physical boundaries between performers and spectators, between real and imaginary, are blurred.

This new set-up works brilliantly for director Wils Wilson’s production, which immerses us in the world of Pedro Calderón de la Barca’s certainty-destabilising, 1635 verse play, themed around the existential question: how can we know whether or not life is a dream?

Segismundo, isolated and imprisoned since birth, knows nothing of his background (Lorn Macdonald enacts him crouching, snarling, animal-like, as well as angry, articulate and passionate). 彼の母親, the Queen of Poland (majestic Alison Peebles), foresaw in the stars that he would grow up a vicious monster. 今, wishing to discover if the stars were correct, she has Segismundo drugged, brought to court and there treated as the prince he is. He behaves monstrously, is returned to his prison tower and told that all that happened was a dream. Offered a new possibility to lead an insurrection, he must choose his course between dream v reality, good v bad, love v hate. In Jo Clifford’s 1998 translation, the jailer offers a fulcrum around which these opposing elements find a possible balance when he tells Segismundo: “Even when you’re dreaming/ The good you do is never lost.”

全体, Wilson’s concept is impressive. 唯一の (major) flaw is that the direction of the actors places too much emphasis on heightened levels of intensity and energy: shouted lines become indistinct; expressions of emotions become blunt. それにもかかわらず, design by Georgia McGuinness and Alex Berry, allied with Calum Paterson’s sound, Nerea Bello’s music, Kai Fischer’s lighting and the performances together achieve a celebration of the dream of life that is theatre.

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