The Empire Builders (4 stars)

Absurdist misery with a clear message

The Empire Builders

The Theatre of the Absurd has an over-rated reputation for obscurity. Boris Vian's 1959 script clearly describes the destruction of the bourgeois nuclear family, and the minimalist staging (in Turkish) by Theatre Hayal Perdesi lends enough surrealism to allow the familiar themes – alienation, selfishness, self-deception, pride and stupidity – to breathe.

A family, frightened by an undefined noise, slowly ascend a building, losing more at each stage. Eventually, only the father remains. They commit acts of casual brutality on their journey, still bickering over irrelevant details, and denying the diminution of their circumstances.

The ensemble operates effectively, bringing out the pettiness of the family, only breaking character to rebuild the set (a taped area) to mark their ascent. Director Aleksandar Popovski pushes the action along, making a play of limited action feel busy, and sometimes even rushed. However, the tragic inevitably of the conclusion is played out delicately, and the final triumph of the speechless entity that has haunted and been victimised by the family is a rare opaque moment.

The power of the play is in the clarity of the production, which reduces bourgeois optimism to a small space, bounded by tape and doubt. Strong performances and an increasingly desperate atmosphere ensure that the absurdist vision is evident even to the vicious end.

Institut français d'Écosse, until 21 Aug, 6.30pm, £12 (£10).

The Empire Builders

  • 4 stars

Theatre Hayal Perdesi The Dupont family is prompted by an indefinable terror (the noise) to flee upward from apartment to apartment into ever more constricting circumstances. They are constantly on the run and their world is forever narrowing. A mysterious woman (the schmürz) appears everywhere they go and they…


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