Doppler @ Newhailes Estate & Gardens
Grid Iron's oddly comic, deeply sensory Doppler was two years in the making – and it was worth waiting for
A mid-life crisis can result in a peculiar array of lifestyle choices – some people buy a car to conceal their insecurities; others have an affair. Then there’s jumping to more extreme choices, such as deciding to reject the consumerist world we live in, pitch a tent, escape humanity and shack up with the young elk whose mother you have just slain.
This is the decision that Doppler, a forty-something-year-old man recovering from the loss of his father, makes in Grid Iron’s excellent new show of the same name. Located within the National Trust of Scotland’s Newhailes Estate and Gardens, just past the charming Shell Grotto, Doppler is a humorous exploration of the great ironies of life and self-gratification.
Director Ben Harrison’s decision to reinforce the humour of the original text – a satirical novel by Norwegian author Erlend Loe – allows the show to be accessible and comfortable for audiences, despite the somewhat heavy subject matter. Keith Fleming is fantastic as the misanthropic Doppler, who is almost scarily focused on his goal of complete and utter isolation, and it's unclear throughout whether our protagonist is a hero or to be feared. Chloe-Ann Taylor is also impressive, metamorphising into various supporting roles.
Doppler is also a sensory show, and immersive in the best sense of the word. The scent of campfire lingers and Nik Paget-Tomlinson’s sound design is everywhere, merging with the forest surroundings in subtle and ingenious ways. Becky Minto’s set is similarly in sync with the environment, adding to the natural stage rather than disrupting it. David A. Pollok’s organic score further underpins the atmospheric, immersive nature of the experience.
When it comes to the progression of Doppler’s story, Harrison has not changed the textual structure of Loe’s original, and it works. It may be fifteen years since the novel’s publication, but Doppler still feels relevant. Sitting in the woods next to a crackling fire, emerging from a pandemic that has prompted many of us to reconnect with nature, one can even start to empathise with its lead's attempts to leave society. Originally intended to debut in 2019 and postponed due to COVID, Doppler was well worth the wait.
Run ended; learn more about the show in Grid Iron's Doppler: The Story So Far documentary, streaming on YouTube