29 March 2018
Speed Death of the Radiant Child makes Daniella Harrison stop and think
An orange telephone keeps ringing. There’s a high-pitched piercing sound which won’t stop. There’s a humming which seems to have no end. There are always people watching and listening and moving around – but slowly, surely, directly.
I am going to be completely honest and say that I didn’t really understand Speed Death. I don’t think I am clever enough to fully understand all of the little details and plot points and how everything connected and all of the nuances and and and
So. There was a young woman and she’s in hospital because she tried to commit suicide by cutting her inner thigh because there’s a blue thing in it which might or might not be radiation or a nuclear thing of some sort and she’s being looked after by a doctor and a nurse and the doctor’s partner does this series of lectures on like art and Jesus and religion and…
There was a lot of things, plot-wise, I didn’t really *get*. I think a lot of other people felt like that, too. I felt a bit stupid when other people were talking about it and analysing it and just really getting it and I was still struggling with the basic plot points. I think I feel that way because normally I *get* things, or I at least get them on some level. I am coming to terms with the fact that this is a show that I am going to be thinking about for quite a while. And that’s okay. I am going to mull and mull and mull over it and think about all of the plot and what it all means and maybe I’ll get something really big and profound out of it. Or maybe I won’t. But that’s okay.
The young woman’s brother turns up after like six years or something and is like "hey I’m back" and he says he killed a man with his bare hands and I’m not sure if he’s serious or not and then they both go with the nurse to remember her favourite child actor who died from drugs (a literal speed death?) outside of a Specsavers and none of her usual friends come and there’s candles and…
My not-understanding of the show is no reflection on the production, because it is stunning and incredibly well-considered. Every single thing is done for a reason. It reminded me ever so slightly of Anatomy of a Suicide in the way it all fits together (but everything good reminds me of Anatomy of a Suicide in some way or another). There are bodies moving around slowly as different parts of the story sew itself together, along with the dressing and undressing, and the careful precision with which everything is picked up and placed back down. Ben Kulvichit has done an exceptional job with visualising what must be a terrifying beast of a script.
Lots of things start happening and there’s a lot of pain. Pain quite literally with the nurse convulsing on the floor and the doctor being knocked unconscious because I *think* he also ended up being affected by the radiation, too. I guess there’s also the pain of losing loved ones. That happened a lot. I felt that a lot.
Nat Norland’s sound design and composition is beautiful. Music intermixes with the low rumbling and high-pitched whine to create this cacophony of sound which punctures my ear drums. I feel utterly immersed in the action; I put down my notebook and pen as I have nothing to write. Nathan Dunne’s lighting design accompanies, and through the red and green strobe I see flashes of Laura, the nurse, convulsing on the floor, her arms and legs jerking. It’s a stunning image.
Maybe it was about art and science? Maybe it was about how the two combine and combust? There’s a beautiful image at the end of Nick (Seán O’Driscoll) pouring a bottle of water over his hair and Charlotte – the young woman (Steffi Felton) – walking out completely naked. It appears as if she’s some sort of painting, a female nude you’d find in the Renaissance section of the gallery except we know that she has this unexplained radiation burning inside of her. She is not merely art.
I know I am going to be grappling with this production for a long time.
"It's just important so it's coming out louder."
Photo credit: Aenne Pallasca