Lowry Studio Theatre
This two-hander created by Ivo in conjunction with Routes North, takes a long, paranoia-drenched look at the subject of surveillance and the ways in which it can infiltrate contemporary life. ‘Him’ (Leigh Kelly) and ‘Her’ (Jo Tyabji) move into a new apartment and set out their furniture. They talk about some unspecified ordeal they have been through (there are allusions to the London bombings, but it’s never really pinned down). Electronic music creates an atmosphere of tension throughout, though it occasionally overpowers the dialogue in some of the early scenes. There are several slo-mo/fast forward sequences, matched to pulsing light and projection effects, which, though initially appealing, are somewhat overused.
As the couple’s life together progresses, ‘he’ becomes increasingly proprietal, watching ‘her,’ recording her, asking questions about how she’s spent her day, becoming ever more intimidating. This clearly refers to those recent cases of undercover police officers becoming intimate with the women they have been assigned to watch, but once again, it’s never clearly pinned down and in the end, I felt this was the main problem with In the Vice Like Grip Of It – it’s a play that deals in generalisations, rather than actualities. It alludes to real life happenings but never fully identifies them and the result is an unevenness of tone that prevents the story from fully gripping the viewer.
In the end, I was left wanting more information than I actually received. There were some nice moments here but not enough to hold my attention throughout and ultimately, what is the play’s central message? That surveillance can be bad? That for a relationship to succeed there needs to be mutual trust? Surely these are universal truths, already widely known – and this play doesn’t really offer any new insights to aid our understanding.