Brand spanking new, home-grown theatre company The Brighton Laboratory arrive at Brighton Festival in the most impressive style with their adaptation of Albert Camus’ modern classic, The Outsider.
Volks Bar and Club initially seems a misled setting for the reworking of a novel that grapples with the absurdity of human existence, but the space is maximised to its absolute potential and the audience is soon unaware of the smell of beer normally permeating the air. With no stage, no seats for the most part, and a bulk of the dialogue directed at the audience members, the performance manages to equate audience with performers and vice versa.
The cast of fifteen blend into the crowd and frequently switch between characters, which creates an entirely engrossing yet disconcerting experience for the viewer. The production seamlessly integrates contemporary dance, film and a smooth, sexy soundtrack that bypasses overwhelming with too many mediums, and instead assimilates audience member into bystander, never more notable than during the thrilling fight scene.
The performances were subtly brilliant and seemed extremely accomplished, the main actors leaving room for the supporting to enhance the finished piece just as much as they were themselves. Owen Bleach offers a certain intimidating confidence as Raymond and Joshua Maclellan comes into his own through the performance to embody Mersault’s logic as though it was his own personal ideology by the end. The audience’s proximity to the performance makes it difficult to passively assume the role of outsider; you don’t know where the story will be delivered from next and you are constantly hit by changes in narrative voice and location.
As Meursalt’s lawyer admits in reference to his trial, ‘Everything is true yet nothing is true.’ The same goes for this performance.