What is it to be David Lynch? How does one define that quality which falls under the impenetrable shade of the umbrella marked “Lynchian.” It is perhaps simpler to point to something which which exhibits those qualities and say “that is Lynchian,” and certainly the Seattle based improvisation company Lynch qualify in that respect.
“In the background of their conversation there is muffled wailing upstairs.”
Performing at the Newsroom on Leith Street as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, the team take the darkened subterranean stage and ask who among the audience are familiar with the work of the maverick independent director before stating without hint of apology, “if you have no idea what it was about when you leave, we did our job.”
Understandably freeform, the next forty minutes unfold in a revolving melange of characters and scenes, a diva in a silk kimono who fears her beauty is fading, a missing director whose absence has stalled production on the film in which she is starring, a desperate producer eating pie in a diner who offers a role to an outsider with questions whose only credential is his cherubic face.
“You look so beautiful when you cry. I want to swim in your tears.”
There are obvious lifts from established moments, a mother stood at the foot of the stairs as she calls her daughter, a red room, competition between women who earn a grudging approval, intense gazes and outrageous accents, dual identities and reversals, and as they perform the hallmark camera shots are described, the focus, the movement or lack thereof, the pullback to reveal that what has just been enacted is in fact an artifice, a scene within a scene.
Performed by a rotating cast primarily dressed in red and black including Elizabeth Brammer (also director), Tony Beeman, Michael Bils, Audra Goffeney, Lindsay Grimm, Jessica Robins, Nick Schell, Sarah Scheller and Greg Stackhouse, there is perhaps a tendency for the women to lapse into hysterics too readily, and crucially improvisation would seem by its nature to only be able at most to offer a facsimile, a representation lacking the substance of Lynch who always has a purpose, even if obscure, and also forgotten is the wider body of work which extends beyond Twin Peaks and Mulholland Drive to encompass Dune and The Straight Story.
“For a moment everything is red, then it fades to the lipstick, and the fingernails.”
Inevitably there are moments which drift or meander, the intentional linger acceptable when supported by the visuals of Lynch himself, less so in a show which is billed for an hour but actually runs considerably less; with only one suggestion from the audience spurring the sequence (on this occasion the somewhat obvious “pie”) it might be more constructive to have several prompts to be woven in to a single narrative, or two or three shorter but more focused pieces to fill the time and fully convey the possibility.