as “a metaphysical shocker” on its release
Sansom’s choreography of his ensemble is strong: they move in and out of the light, always present on stage and yet not distracting from the rising tension as Lise’s death approaches.
However Spark was, above all else, the Queen of prolepsis – the “flash forward”: early on, she reveals that Lise is heading, seemingly deliberately, towards a violent death. This is not a whodunnit, howver; The Driver’s Seat is a bracing, but nevertheless uncomfortable “whodunit” focused on alienation and control. So it’s a genuine pleasure to say that the National Theatre of Scotland’s Artistic Director Laurie Sansom – who has adapted the book and directs – has created an articulate and genuinely gripping drama which both enthrals and disturbs with equal force.
The events of Lise’s final day are repeatedly unveiled to us in the manner of a police procedural, complete with a blank clock-face given changing projected hands as we progress through the hours leading to her murder. Not that there is much regard for traditional realism; plain tables and chairs are utilised to represent aircraft and taxis, with the latter’s routes shown to us on a map being highlighted by one of the cast and projected on the rear wall. Ana Inés Jabares Pita’set, costumes and video projection – the latter fed from several video cameras used by members of the cast – are deceptively simple means through which to tell the story, best symbolised by the perspex crime wall through which Lise’s identity as victim is first displayed, and which later partly shields her actual murder from the audience’s eyes.
Not that Morven Christie’s Lise comes across as a victim; yes, she’s vulnerable, volatile and self-destructive, but she’s a dominating force all the same. Christie gives her a sense of a life half-lived that is engrossing, though she’s ably assisted by the rest of the cast – two women and four men – who between them play all the other people Lise encounters, as well as the police investigators dissecting and piecing together her final actions.
Sansom’s choreography of his ensemble is strong: they move in and out of the light, always present on stage and yet not distracting from the rising tension as Lise’s death approaches. Each also benefits from having their singular key character; Sheila Reid, for example, excels as the seemingly naive Mrs Fiedke, who retains possibly one of Spark’s funniest lines: “I never trust the airlines from those countries where the pilots believe in the afterlife.”
It’s a rare moment of release for the audience but, tinged as it is by the spectre of death, it nevertheless remains entirely appropriate, and a reflection of how so much of our fates is forever in the control of others.