(Mark Fisher’s article appared in the Guardian, 11/3; Photo: Fierce and ferocious … Anna Russell-Martin as Rosaura in Life Is a Dream at Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh. Photograph: Ryan Buchanan.)

Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh
Wils Wilson’s perception-bending production highlights the artifice of a prince’s world, exposing the thin veneer of riches and respectability

Segismundo has just woken up in a palace, having spent his life holed up in a tower. In Pedro Calderón’s extraordinary Spanish golden age drama, he is astonished at the luxury he is suddenly immersed in. “Me, surrounded by all these elegant-looking servants,” he says.

Except in Wils Wilson’s production, the servants are nothing of the kind. Their look could be called punk Pierrot: all back-combed hair, eccentric makeup and bare feet. In accordance with designer Georgia McGuinness’s dressing-up-box aesthetic, their outfits are a thrown-together combination of long johns and glitz.

Their elegance is as provisional as the scrawled chalk line that marks the edge of a stage that extends across the stalls and creates a hallucinatory depth of field. Emerging from the haze of Kai Fischer’s lighting is a fake proscenium arch, distressed and decaying, an expression of the play’s theme about the real and the pretend.

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