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Sound design is increasingly dominant in theatre, leading to what you might call a sonic boom. This is clearly influenced by the cinema, so it seems apt that Peter Strickland’s acclaimed 2012 movie about a sound technician has been reimagined for the stage by Joel Horwood as writer and Tom Scutt as director. Without having seen the film, I found the play both visually witty and morally disturbing.
The central figure, Gilderoy, is a dork from Dorking who, on the strength of his nature films about the mysteries of the Surrey countryside, is hired by a sleazy Italian company to work as sound designer and Foley artist on one of the sex-drenched 1970s horror movies known as “giallo”. Gilderoy’s special brief is to provide an evocative soundscape for the film’s sadistic climax in which the heroine is brutally tortured. What is fascinating is seeing how the professional challenge overcomes Gilderoy’s instinctive revulsion. He fails to support a protesting female actor and, asked at one point if he believes in God, Gilderoy evasively replies: “I’m a technician.”
While the play attacks the idea that craft skills give you an ethical bypass, it delights in the process of creating sound: vegetables play a huge part, and we see celery sticks crunched, carrots chopped and marrows eviscerated to evoke atmospheric horror. Ben and Max Ringham as the play’s sound designers, Tom Espiner as the on-stage Foley artist and Scutt as director palpably relish meeting the script’s aural demands.
But the moral dimension is never absent. Tom Brooke as Gilderoy brilliantly suggests not just an innocent abroad but a man corrupted by the task he has undertaken. The rapt look on Brooke’s face as he finally matches the sound to the sadistic image speaks volumes. Lara Rossi as the mutinous actor strongly questions the dubious practice of over-dubbing another performer’s voice. Luke Pasqualino as the director, reacting with fastidious disdain when his flick is called a horror movie, also suavely embodies the professional hypocrisy and male power structure that is the play’s unerring target.
• At Donmar Warehouse, London, until 30 March.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Berberian Sound Studio review – aural sex-drenched horror hits its targets | Stage