It’s all in the name: Frantic Assembly is a company, which assembles text, design, movement and music into frantic, energetic and original pieces of theatre. And Stockholm is just that. Bryony Lavery (of Frozen renown) worked with the company to devise a jarring and paradoxical text, alongside artistic directors’ Scott Graham and Steven Hoggett development of a physical choreographed ‘text’, telling a love story. It’s ‘Todd’s’ birthday and ‘Kali’ is treating him to a special day before they leave for a holiday in Stockholm. Madly in love, obsessed with and lusting for each other; their emotional intensity and spontaneous shagging is enviable. But the passionate helter-skelter spirals towards an inevitable crash as the lovers are emotionally trapped by their loyalty, destroying themselves.
The beautiful set designed by Laura Hopkins is a tightrope balance between domestic bliss and danger; the kitchen wall is lined with an impressive display of dozens of knives – immediately we realise that this won’t end well. The choreographed extracts are deliciously innovative, especially when the audience sees the phrase “eat each other up” illustrated with an erotic cutlery dance.
The actors’ skills compliment each other well; Samuel James is a rhythmic, flexible and physically intense performer while Georgina Lamb is more rigid but delivers chilling monologues of demented hysteria. The intimate dancing compensates for an occasionally wavering bond between them.
But then the violence starts. Although the audience is already resolved to the fact that this is a destructive relationship – there’s baseless jealousy, loyalty issues – the creative team choose to rub this in and then nail it down by transcending the symbolism and having the couple beat each other up. Later we discover what will happen in the future as the idyll turns into full-blown domestic violence and suicide. Suddenly, in the sixty-fifth minute of the seventy-five minute show, Stockholm draws dangerously near to becoming an “issue” play, rather than a beautiful commentary on the human condition. Are the company questioning their audience’s ability to understand the telling psychological subtleties from the characters and the allegory of Stockholm (syndrome) as their destination? Spelled-out violence turns this into a very different kind of physical theatre.
However, all my inhibitions about “the point” were swept away by the choreography of the final scene. Watching two people intertwine on a bed that is suspended at an angle ten feet above the stage is a stunning, fragile, poignant experience that makes a trip to The Junction more than worthwhile.