City of Glass Review | Homemcr | Manchester
Paul Auster’s short story turned graphic novella is an unforgettable look at language, shrouded in the mist of a murder mystery. The visually impressive set designed by 59 Productions, morphs with the use of projectors. The stage is instantly transformed into an apartment, Grand Central station and an unravelling map of Manhattan with inventive trickery. Alongside the moving scenery, multiple cast members play the same role, which adds to the sense of confusion.
The experimental direction of Leo Warner plays within the crime genre but without attaching any fixed rules that usually apply to detective fiction. Auster plunges audiences into a world where it is easy to lose track of reality, and while its stage adaptation allows you to follow the action, it does not simplify the story.
As part of Auster’s three progressive narratives named The New York Trilogy, City of Glass is left to stand alone. As the first story in the series, this reworking becomes problematic on-stage due to its shallow caricatures, story resolution and the general sense that you're missing the bigger picture.
Narrated by Daniel Quinn, the story follows William Wilson who now goes by the pseudonym Quinn. One evening Quinn receives a phone call from Peter Stillman Jr looking for private detective Paul Auster. Quinn decides to pose as Auster and accept a case in which he must protect Stillman Jr from his father Peter Stillman senior, soon to be released from jail. After accepting the case, Quinn then seeks the help of the real Paul Auster.
While HOME is put to great use with unique staging, this abstract shifting of storylines didn’t hold the attention of its entire audience. The story itself is wordy, with writer Duncan MacMillan relying heavily on the book, the stage suffers for its lengthy observations narrated over every scene. Characters onstage become purposeless, dawdling in the darkly lit sets and standing aimlessly in the background through continuous monologues. The mystery is also fractured and unresolved, leading a literary rich production to an unsatisfactory conclusion.
This Avant-garde construction poses ideological questions surrounding identity and the idea of losing oneself. Its themes will remain with you, especially as you witness a young man’s descent into madness. However poignant and intriguing, this post-modern mystery focuses on literary terms and writing itself. As a result, the intertextual imaginings of the real-life writer Paul Auster are better suited in paperback.