I understand those reviewers who feel bewildered by this book because it is a very modernist, experimental experience. One is not expected to take the majority of the dialogue as what was actually said. It is more an indication of feelings and ideas inherent to the particular character. At times it reads (with the lighting information especially) like a playscript, and at others it uses archetypes (Head of Acting, Head of Movement, etc.) to move the text around within its proscribed parameters. Not an easy read between the lines, or even on the page. The action coalesces between Isolde, whose older sister Victoria has been the subject of a scandal - an accusation of abuse has been made against a teacher. The saxophone teacher introduces two of her pupils, one of whom, Julia, has been accused of lesbianism. Isolde is a friend of both Julia and Stanley, who is at the nearby Institute of the Dramatic Arts.
The verbal pyrotechnics often work against this novel in making it difficult to identify with some characters - the saxophone teacher, for instance, who is a bit of a monster and whose antipathy towards her pupil's mothers seems virulent, not to mention her acute sexual frustration. Or is that meant to be Julia's point of view? It is conflated. The experimental agenda interferes in any clear-cut verdict. But that, in a way is the point. The depths of feeling must be plumbed in order to produce the entertainment. The hushed awe of the audience is endemic to this novel.
Hardly an unadulterated pleasure to read, therefore, but with moments of brilliant insight. Stanley's reaction to the Theatre of Cruelty demonstration, for instance, as well as Bridget's (another saxophonist) moments with Mr Saladin in the video shop. But the novel has a heartless quality too - Bridget suffers from this, chosen almost inevitably to be the "one who dies", fulfilling Stanley's father's prediction. Some interesting games are played, some sensualities teased out and tormented a little, as this turns into an amusingly provoking read. It's not as clever as it thinks it is, however, as the ending fails to draw the artful premises to any kind of a conclusion. It looks like a failure of nerve to me, which is a pity and I wish it had been held until the literal curtain call.