We're all Peeping Toms now
If Platform's mix of sex and terror doesn't unsettle, the seating plan will
Monday 22 November 2004
An Adaptation of the provocative French novel by Michel Houellebecq, Platform is about a French sex tourist in Thailand who goes on to turn Club-Med-style resorts into sexual playgrounds. During the rolling performances - five a night, each lasting an hour - the audience sit isolated in peep-show cubicles, observing the protagonist, Michel Renault, alone in his apartment after a sex-tourism binge has been brutally terminated by a terror-ist attack on the resort. It promises to be a profoundly lonely theatrical experience.
There are six individual cubicles that look in on four separate but identical rooms, where four actors play Renault simultaneously. "It's an anthropological exercise - he sleeps, takes a shower and eats," says the director Sacha Wares, who co-directed Guantanamo, the orange-suited stage recreation of the US detention centre, in the West End and off Broadway. While the audience watches the banal surface details of Renault's life, he recounts his life story to them via headphones.
Wares regards the drama as "a subtle warning about the dangerous consequences of Western commercial values. The idea of theatre is normally that you are creating a collective live experience for an audience. Platform is so much about Western isolation, alienation and loneliness that I wanted to find a production form that would express that. Each audience member, being left alone with the internal thoughts of this man will create the opposite of your usual theatre experience."
The show is designed by the Linbury Prize-winner Miriam Buether, who collaborated with Wares on the production of Bintou at the Arcola Theatre in 2002. Then, the audience were confronted on the street by actors, told where to sit - some behind wire - and exposed to a performance by a 'girl gang' that included fights and dogs and took place all around them. "We were exploring the audience's physical relationship to the action at a basic level," says Ware. "Platform is the next step for us. Where do you situate the audience in relation to the action? Here the audience are again positioned right in the middle of the action. How does that affect their imaginative experience of it?"
Much of the tape heard via the earphones is deliberately erotic. "In the novel, when he is visiting Thai prostitutes, Renault is telling you in detail what that experience is like; how he looks at her and what she does. This is why we decided to do the piece this way - there is something about having that experience whispered directly into your ear that is far more evocative."
At the end of the novel, Michel is left in this room with no friends, family or relationships. "What is challenging about the novel is that you don't really realise exactly where the story is going, because of all the sexual description. But the writer has a political purpose - to expose sexual tourism, terrorism and the rise of the multinational corporation."
'Platform', ICA, London SW1 (020-7930 3647; www.ica.org. uk) 2-16 Dec
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