Off to The Orange Tree late yesterday evening to see former graduate Andy Brunskill's directorial debut. He chose Sing to Me Through Open Windows by Arthur Kopit - a strange, whimsical meditation on aging and the loss of innocence. At the heart of the play is the paternal relationship between fading magician Ottoman Judd and schoolboy Andrew. Every year at the beginning of Spring, the windows are opened and Andrew visits his hero to see the wonder of a magical circus act - but each year the conversation grows more stilted, the act more stale and the wonder less impressive.
The trouble with the work is understanding whose story this is. I suspect it's Andrew's - both a memory and a future. The absurdity of the text would certainly allow more focus to see Ottoman and his sidekick Loveless as magnificent, if dusty beasts. At one point Andrew describes Ottoman as the 'tallest of all the shadows' a marvellous visual image and clue.
Andy chooses a more democratic route and we're given a detailed psychological portrait of a man losing his capabilities as he struggles to control the show. There's a lot of thought and graft gone into carving out the performance, but we end up being objective voyeurs of a slightly weird event rather than feeling genuine involved empathy for the inevitable distancing between the old man and the growing child.
Still the work doesn't lack guts and Andy is brave enough to slow the pace to allow us to see the disintegration. I hope it's well received.