As we enter the installation, we are warned to keep our feet behind the lines which act as runway down the centre of the space and are told that, in a moment, we will be plunged into complete darkness. If at any point we need to leave, we must wait for a moment where the lights are up, raise our hand and shout the safe word: CUT. There is only one exit from this tiny container. We must turn our phones off. Not on silent: Off. And we all do. Watches off wrists and into our bags and pockets; the lights go off. The space is completely black. And for the next hour, we’re on a plane, a train and trapped in reflections of light. An air hostess (Hannah Norris) begins to tell her story.
CUT is a psychological thriller of a poem. Duncan Graham’s script forms bizarre, horrific and at times ambiguous images: an old lady with a pair of scissors, a reflection of a reflection, the image of a mysterious set of ash-coloured eyes creeping into the corner of your vision. The script is a puzzle, which never quite fully resolves itself, yet nonetheless, it is a thrilling journey that Norris takes us on.
Norris flicks effortlessly between characters; sometimes the victim, sometimes the predator. A blackout, a screech, darkness. She shines a torch to her face and suddenly she’s someone else. Sam Hopkins’s sound design is a contrasting medley of echoes and music, and partners with Norris’s performance to create a gripping atmosphere. Russell Goldsmith’s lighting design doesn’t set the environment, because it doesn’t need to; rather it follows the narrative of the story, changing with every turn that the text has to offer. There is a fascinating relationship between light beams and cling film which is particularly striking at a moment of sexual assault.
As the story is re-lived in front of us, we become part of it: immersed in the walls, the curtains and watching closely as passengers on a train. The tale unfolds, and yet we can never really piece all the puzzles together; perhaps no one can. This one-woman show is not really a one-woman show, but rather a collaborative result of teamwork from artists across the theatrical skillsets. Norris may carry us through the story, but it is the fear of the unknown which reassures our feelings of suspense, as no one can cope with the turbulence of the human mind when trapped in the dark.
CUT is playing Underbelly until 29 August. For more information and tickets, see Edinburgh Fringe website.