City of Glass – Review

City of Glass. Images Jonathan Keenan

There’s a sign outside the Lyric, Hammersmith, telling theatre-goers to expect smoking, gunfire, nudity….and jaw-dropping video projection.

That’s the understatement of the century. Paul Auster’s out there, postmodernist, absurdist pulp noir, City of Glass is mind-blowing, next generation theatre that will leave you reeling.

All thanks to state-of-the art direction and design from a company of exceptionally talented creators called fifty nine productions.

You’ll experience audio and visual sleight-of-hand that will dazzle and astound you. It is arguably the most innovative and confounding show you’ll ever see. I would love to know how the hell is it achieved.

This is the magic of the theatre taken to a whole new level. Is this too much? Make up your own minds.

Audiences are returning again and again to get their fix of this extraordinary production, surely the most technologically advanced ever staged at the Lyric.

Superficially it presents itself as a noirish detective story worthy of Raymond Chandler – until posters start talking, sets dissolve, the same characters appear twice, no three times, together on stage.

Surreal and other-worldly, City of Glass messes with your head. Just when you think you have a handle on the story it throws in a curve ball.

The phone rings incessantly and Daniel Quinn, 35, widower, and author of trashy pulp fiction, now suffering from writer’s block, tries hard to ignore it – if, for no other reason than he’s on the loo “in the act of expelling a turd”.

Finally he answers and the rasping voice at the other end pleads for help.

The call piques his interest. The stranger thinks he is through to Paul Auster, a private eye, and the novelist strings him along, adopting Auster’s identity and entering a shadowy world usually inhabited by his own literary creations.

The man claims that his mad father, recently released from prison, is going to kill him.

The audience is plunged, head-first, into a hallucinatory thriller which finds Quinn, now Auster, confronting a cast of characters that could have only come from his own imagination. Or did they?

Auster’s descent into madness comes via a roller-coaster ride through New York’s underbelly, into seedy tenements, luxury apartments and down-town hotels – all created with smoke and mirrors.

Duncan MacMillan’s adaptation is hypnotic and exhilarating. The audience has no idea what or who is real, who is telling the truth, what lies are being told. It’s a story about language, space and identity and it will tie you up in knots.

Mark Edel-Hunt appears to have the startling ability to replicate himself as Daniel Quinn – or Paul Auster – the writer, the narrator and a dogged detective – until you realise that he is being helped by his doppelganger, Chris New.

Jack Tarlton, too, gives an impressive turn both as the strange, robotic-speaking, Peter Stillman, locked away in isolation, in a cruel experiment by his lunatic, though utterly brilliant, father, and then appearing as the old man himself.

City of Glass is a mind-bender but one which doesn’t sacrifice a good solid story for the sake of cutting-edge effects. But, wow, they sure elevate this production into something sensational.

City of Glass runs at the Lyric Hammersmith until May 20.

Review Rating
  • City of Glass


Experience audio and visual sleight-of-hand that will dazzle and astound you. fifty nine productions create next generation theatre with City of Glass, arguably the most innovative, mind-bending play you’ll ever see.

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