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Theatre review Crossed lines

SIMON PARSONS attempts to disentangle a complex web of loneliness, love and sexual desire that loses in translation from page to stage

Sputnik Sweetheart
Arcola theatre, Hackney, London

BRYONY LAVERY’s adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s 1999 novel and Melly Still’s direction go some way towards transposing the book’s elements of magical realism that explore dual emotional worlds, but the physical realisation of the characters and their actions hinders our imaginative engagement.

Sumire (Millicent Wong) is an aspiring writer, a would-be Jack Kerouac, until she is offered a job by Miu (Natsumi Kuroda), a successful wine importer and 17 years her senior.

Under the spell of her new employer, she travels to Greece where a crisis in their relationship ends in her disappearance and the love story turns to a mystery. 

The omniscient narrator is K (Naruto Komatsu), Sumire’s male friend whose real sexual feelings for Sumire remain no more than references to phallic cucumbers locked away in fridges reinforced by simple projections. 

The story is about loneliness, love and sexual desire. The characters are set upon different emotional paths, like satellites in contrasting orbits.

Dream-like experiences lift their relationships to a complex psychological and metaphysical level interpreted through stylised movements often ensnared within an extendable phone line from a spinning phone box. 

The 80-minute play is stylish, thought-provoking and poetic as the cast circle around each other and at times lock together in dance-like sequences of desire.

The relationship between the two contrasting women is physically expressive of their unfulfilled feelings while K’s background presence on stage reflects the narrator’s role but does not always capture his perspective.

The two other members of the cast Yuyu Rau as K’s lover and Sadao Ueda as a security guard provide glimpses of the real world that the main characters try to navigate when not distracted by their troubled identities and their feelings.

Just as isolated as the central trio but more firmly bedded in the physical realities of life, they provide a background texture to the central unrequited love triangle.

The ambiguous end with the possibility of a return or an escape for the missing girl and a reconnection to K is partially effective but again the physical presences of the actors on stage works against the ambiguity and fluency of the novel.

Runs until November 25. Box office:


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