Lament, Tron Theatre, Glasgow  

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The Independent Culture

The inherence of loss in human experience, both individual and collective, provides the raw material for this latest devised production from Scotland's internationally acclaimed Suspect Culture company. Combining hi-tech visual projections, live and recorded music, and a cast of six, it opens at what seems a highly individual level, showing video footage from talking-heads interviews with the performers. In engagingly chatty, informal style, each describes a typical outfit they might wear, recalls some childhood memories, muses on present-day sources of angst, nominates a favourite sad song and sketches out a pipe-dream idyll.

In a clever self-referential refiguring ­ at once playful and provocative ­ of the devising process itself, this material is then transcribed into the fabric of the performance. The actors appear wearing the clothes they've described, echoing snatches of speech as uttered by their on-screen selves; they use their own names throughout, and their castle-in-the-air scenarios form the basis for many of the short, fluidly overlapping scenes in which most of the show unfolds. There's thus an immediate implied reflection on the process of turning oneself into a character, or simply a public persona, and the losses or limitations this entails. Although seemingly drawn into their confidence, we actually have no way of gauging the reliability of these people's testimony, while the picture they present is inevitably simplified and selective.

Most of Lament's other central concerns also emerge at this early point ­ loss of innocence; loss of idealism, of identity, and of belief in an individual's power to impact on a world where global capitalism reigns supreme. The settings in which these are illustrated, explored and juxtaposed range across a bucolic peasant community, of the kind romanticised ­ and commodified ­ in the West as embodying a simpler, purer existence; a Friends-style sitcom sequence, a cowboys' campfire, a drunken funeral wake, a climbing expedition up Annapurna, nameless war-torn cities and refugee way-stations, and a tango class in Buenos Aires.

It's an ambitious approach, at times somewhat scattershot but largely effective, thanks to a set of low-key but sharply defined performances, obliquely enabling different psychological and philosophical strands to connect and play off one another. In evoking the notion of bygone golden ages, for instance, the shows posits numerous interrogative angles on the rose-tinted, distorting sentimentality with which human beings commonly compensate for loss. This element in turn resonates further within an overarching, multi-layered meditation on the process of forgetting ­ surely the most universal form of loss, and the most indivisible from the human condition. Frequent abrupt lacunae in the dialogue underline the point, suggesting newly realised gaps in the characters' memories that the audience are implicitly invited to fill.

While the inevitability and ultimately unassuagable nature of loss are thus delineated, however, the timeless consolations of music and ritual are also acknowledged. The overall effect is a graceful counterpoint between the poignancy of unresolved longings and an elegiac serenity, gradually accumulat- ing a potent emotional charge to match the cerebral perspicacity that has long been a Suspect Culture trademark.

Manchester Royal Exchange (0161-833 9833), 19-20 April; Paisley Arts Centre (0141-887 1010), 24 April

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