There's a class of play that seems so highbrow – so self-confident in the intelligence of its concept – that if you find you don't understand it, you feel the fault must lie with you. It's so tempting, and so easy, to applaud the intent; to read the blurb on the flyer, and paraphrase it as your own. But no, dear reader, I shall not play that game. Tomorrow Creeps is either an hour-long joke that simply isn't funny, or an artistic self-indulgence that's embraced its own conceit to the point that nothing else remains.
The basic idea of David Fairs' script is to take fragments of text from Shakespearean works, and assemble them to form a new story. The dialogue hops in and out of soliloquys, abandons iconic lines part-way through, and references familiar concepts from several plays – without ever entirely committing to any of them. Sometimes the effect resembles a concordance of themed quotations; at other times it's more of a free-association game. Very little of it actually makes sense.
Which would be fine if they were doing an avant-garde absurdist kind of thing, where not making sense is the point of it all. But I don't think that's what's happening here. I picked up enough fragments of plot to make it deeply frustrating that I didn't understand more; there's a captive man and a cruel leader, a woman who's a wife (and might also be a devil), occult spells hidden in sonnets, and a message in the eye-socket of a skull. Some concepts – like the shifting power balance, represented by characters taking turns to sit on the one and only chair – looked genuinely intriguing. But you can't stay intrigued for long by a story you simply can't follow.
There's also, and I can't quite believe I'm about to write this, a pause for Wuthering Heights. Not the Brontë version, the Kate Bush one – complete with lines lifted from the lyrics, and actions echoed from the video. "So cold!" says one character. "I hated you!" replies the other. Is this a pastiche? Was I meant to find it funny? I genuinely have no idea.
To be fair, the production values are high and the performances seem strong. The tone of the piece fits the dungeon-like space it's presented in; the lighting's nice. Too many lines are lost to a general cacophony of sound, but there's a fittingly Shakespearean timbre to the delivery, and a recognisable depth to the acting. On the other hand, it's impossible to judge whether the performances hit the right emotional marks when you simply haven't the slightest clue what's going on.
What makes Shakespeare echo down the ages isn't just his turn of phrase, but his talent for building timeless plots – ones which chime with our experience of the human condition, and so feel eternally meaningful and true. Dissolve those tales into a soup of lines, and you boil away the genius too. Who knew?