Martin Crimp’s Fewer Emergencies is a curious, tongue-twisting and lyrical piece of writing. It thunders between middle-class life, imagined situations and the dark psyche of the human mind. It is a difficult text to unravel as it dips and twists between overlapping and repetitive storytelling. In the hands of director Dan Ayling, however, Fewer Emergencies is a triumph of claustrophobic and intense character portrayal coupled with Crimp’s razor-sharp dialogue.

The characters, clustered around a designer dinner table, feed off the stories of ever-growing intensity that each one delivers in turn. The stories are fueled by the others, too, and they help the narrative to shift and evolve, punctuated by the characters’ questioning. They cling desperately to their wine glasses and deliver stories on apocalyptic worlds and school massacres, with an unnerving edge of malice within the crystal clear direction of Ayling. It oddly both draws in and repels its audience, for whilst at times the stories seem fabricated the swelling conviction – as a killer is described shooting child in the head – is chilling.

Considering the intensity within the dialogue, Ayling subtly brings out his characters through his directional choices. The stillness of one character provokes another to reach out and top up their wine glass, or to imagine that Bobby, a young boy, is sitting at the table with them. The dialogue and direction place Bobby in the chair, the actors teasing out the imaginative functions of the audience.

Adding to the dialogue are a series of subtle projections that play out behind the cast. The projection mimics the stories being told, with blood spots or abstract shapes that generally add to the atmosphere of this chaotically imagined world. Even the sudden rousing of music and a character’s singing as he tells a story seems abstract but fits the tone of the piece wonderfully.

Fewer Emergenices is a short piece, but boy does it pack in a punch or three. It’s great to see a young director bringing out the sinister and lyrical words of Crimp, even more so because it achieves a level of intensity with such ease (although I’m sure that there isĀ  a lot happening within a given moment – power struggles, endless games and so forth). Fewer Emergenciies is playing as part of the Devils Festival at the Print Room, a relatively new studio space that seeks to work with young artists such as Ayling. On the night I attended Fewer Emergenices I was also treated to a dance piece, a Chekhov play, and a sound installation billed as offering healing powers. It’s an ecletic mix of work, but somehow it all works.

Fewer Emergencies is playing as part of the Devils Festival at the Print Room. For more information and to see the other shows in the festival see the website here.