The auditorium is submerged into pitch black. We hear scratching sounds, pushing and pulling. A lone light slowly reveals a man (Claudio Stellato) with a small cabinet balancing perfectly on his upper back. Deep in concentration he edges further across a deep red that is folded in half. Suddenly, the carpet comes to life and flattens itself. The man lowers himself to the ground and then lays flat on the carpet, all the while keeping the cabinet perfectly balanced.
Having then squeezed himself into the cupboard, a large wardrobe-like structure seems to come to life emerging from the darkness, standing upright and opening and closing its door as if goading Stellato to reckon with it. Stellato gamely joins in, choosing his moment to leap upon the object and dive behind the door like a cat pouncing upon its prey. During the entire fifty-minute performance we are witness to this continued game of cat and mouse in which man and object seem to be struggling for power over one another.
The key to the performance is the magical element of each scenario. Stellato’s head appears in the top half of this wardrobe lit by a tiny LED light. Slowly, the wardrobe begins to tilt to the side completely out of his control. Later, the red carpet seems to breathe, scrunching itself up towards centre stage. This illusory power is the ‘other’ of the title of the piece. The playing space is surrounded by darkness in which another is surely at work pulling and pushing in marvellous silence? In a wonderfully understated coup de théâtre the darkness vanishes to reveal nothing but empty space and the theatre’s curtains hanging where I was imagining a team of stage managers scuttling about frantically making Stellato and his objects appear, disappear and float into space.
The final image of Stellato walking across the length of his wardrobe into the curtains is similarly magical: as he reaches the end of the wood his feet seem to float on thin air as he pads across the blackness and vanishes before our eyes. As the lights come up for his curtain call a second man is revealed. His collaborator Martin Firket, dressed in identical grey suit and beard, has indeed been masterminding the illusions in the darkness. It’s not an earth-shattering piece, but L’Autre is a quietly pleasing performance revelling in non-showy illusion and incredibly clever stagecraft.