4 things City Of Glass left us reflecting upon

Reporter: Robin Johnson, first published Thu 27 Apr 2017 17:52
Chris New (Daniel Quinn) in Paul Auster's City Of Glass at the Lyric Hammersmith (Photo: Jonathan Keenan)Chris New (Daniel Quinn) in Paul Auster's City Of Glass at the Lyric Hammersmith (Photo: Jonathan Keenan)/servlet/file/store5/item392940/version1/fileservice770/392940_770_preview.jpg

Paul Auster’s City Of Glass at Lyric Hammersmith left us transfixed on its press night, immersed totally within 59 Productions and playwright Duncan Macmillan’s vivid reimagining of Paul Auster’s New York Trilogy novel (and later graphic novel) based world.

Centring on reclusive crime writer Daniel Quinn, bereft after the death of his wife and child, events quickly spiral out of control when he suddenly becomes the protagonist in a real-life thriller case of his own. Entrapping you in the corners of his mind with some incredible engrossing design, Quinn quickly becomes consumed by his task, losing his grip on reality – and our grounding – in the process.

A show quite unlike anything else on the London stage, here are four things about City Of Glass we won’t be forgetting in a hurry.

The jaw-dropping set

Mark Edel-Hunt (Daniel Quinn) and Jack Tarlton (Peter Stillman) in Paul Auster's City Of Glass at the Lyric Hammersmith (Photo: Jonathan Keenan)

Mark Edel-Hunt (Daniel Quinn) and Jack Tarlton (Peter Stillman) in Paul Auster's City Of Glass at the Lyric Hammersmith (Photo: Jonathan Keenan)

A white-box layout with gauzes, sliding scenery, and seemingly boundless iterations of décor that can be projected onto it, 59 Productions’ design centrepiece snaps in a heartbeat from apartment to asylum, train stations to street slums, and high rises to the heavens - all rendered in staggering detail, right down to the picture frames seemingly (but somehow not actually) hanging from the walls.

At the heart of this, 59 Productions’ design centrepiece adopts so many identities throughout the course of the play, it almost forms a character in itself, providing the perfect foil to Quinn’s rapidly dissolving sanity. It’s hugely ambitious, technologically marvellous, and compellingly hypnotic  – an utterly remarkable achievement.

The astounding stagecraft

Mark Edel-Hunt (Daniel Quinn), Jack Tarlton (Peter Stillman) and Vivienne Acheampong (Virginia Stillman) in Paul Auster's City Of Glass at the Lyric Hammersmith (Photo: Jonathan Keenan)

Mark Edel-Hunt (Daniel Quinn), Jack Tarlton (Peter Stillman) and Vivienne Acheampong (Virginia Stillman) in Paul Auster's City Of Glass at the Lyric Hammersmith (Photo: Jonathan Keenan)

It’s not just the environments of City Of Glass which astonish, but also the ingenious invention which permeates throughout its staging.

Playing up to the show’s quasi-cinematic feel, brilliant employment of magic tricks, mind-bending illusions and rapid-fire doubling complement the projection perfectly, with the result more unbelievable moments than you can blink your eyes at.

Reckon Quinn’s on his sofa? Yes – but he’s also, impossibly, on the other side of the stage. When the time came to applaud for the curtain call, a cast of five emerged, rather than the fifteen I imagined, testament to the show’s outstanding slickness.  

The stirring performances

Vivienne Acheampong (Virginia Stillman) in Paul Auster's City Of Glass at the Lyric Hammersmith (Photo: Jonathan Keenan)

Vivienne Acheampong (Virginia Stillman) in Paul Auster's City Of Glass at the Lyric Hammersmith (Photo: Jonathan Keenan)

A show of lucid fluidity, it’s almost impossible to pick out star performers – City Of Glass’ stirring ensemble navigate numerous characters and challenges seamlessly, somehow surrounding Quinn (himself played by two actors) in a bustling, industrious and compassionless New York despite their slim number. You have to see it for yourself to believe it.

The mind-bending plot

Mark Edel-Hunt (Daniel Quinn), Jack Tarlton (Peter Stillman) and Vivienne Acheampong (Virginia Stillman) in Paul Auster's City Of Glass at the Lyric Hammersmith (Photo: Jonathan Keenan)

Mark Edel-Hunt (Daniel Quinn), Jack Tarlton (Peter Stillman) and Vivienne Acheampong (Virginia Stillman) in Paul Auster's City Of Glass at the Lyric Hammersmith (Photo: Jonathan Keenan)

Backing up City Of Glass’ swathes of style is plenty of thought-provocative substance, and with Quinn and the set around him shifting characters to pursue the case, Duncan Macmillan’s dizzying plot twists accordingly.

It’s a disorientating, dramatically rich show bound to leave you with plenty to ponder on, questioning the identities and purposes we adopt to define ourselves.

Paul Auster's City Of Glass plays at the Lyric Hammersmith until 20 May. Book your tickets today.