Seeing Double has a simple, if not wholly original, conceit: it shows the audience both the managerial and artistic sides of a new production of Macbeth which is in the process of going horribly, hilariously wrong. An eccentric director refuses to allow anyone but the actors into his rehearsal space, which conveniently has a live webcam enabling the production crew to spy on rehearsals as opening night gets perilously close. Throw in four actors of varying levels of stupidity and arrogance, a congenitally sweaty stage management intern, three dildos and a ghoulish doll covered in swastikas – what could possibly go wrong?
When Seeing Double premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe last year, the piece was performed as two separate pieces Vision and Figures, and audiences could choose which half of the play they wanted to see. Now that Greenlight Theatre company have brought their production to CPT, we are able to see both sides of the story in a single evening, the two interconnected halves running concurrently in the venue’s main theatre space and down in its basement. The result is a dynamic affair with plenty of (uncomfortable) audience interaction.
At the heart of any good farce is a degree of plausibility, and writers Alex Woolf and Sadie Spencer understand this. The plot is straightforward, reliant on a lovelorn costumier intent on sabotaging the production, and despite the challenges inherent in running a production in two spaces at the same time the writers maintain a sense of realism that jars pleasingly with the anarchy on stage.
A deep love of theatre is apparent throughout, the piece playing with familiar theatrical tropes and types: the self-important lighting technician, the air-headed PR manager, the posturing wannabe thesps, not to mention the myths attached to staging Macbeth. (There are fewer oblique references to ‘the Scottish play’ than there are dildos – superstitious theatre-goers might nod sagely as chaos ensues.)
The cast play the farce well, with Lettice Thomas’s performance, as the increasingly erratic costumier, standing out for its brilliant comic timing, and Laurence Davidson also making an impression as a prickly actor making the most of the chaotic situation. Some of the cast members, however, seem to find themselves a little stymied in the rehearsal space, leading to some unfortunate periods of silence which are awkwardly punctuated by the cast’s noisy hullaballoo above. For the most part the comedy is well-paced and bright, as reliant on theatrical myth as it is on physical comedy and malfunctioning props.
The final performance of Macbeth (or whatever it turns into – we’re never quite sure) is masterfully farcical, setting the seal on a production whose uproar and hilarity are well rooted in a deep love of theatre, its characters and conventions.