Possibilities, Theatre N16

https://www.tcmworld.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/fork-in-the-road-1.jpg

What if your life has endless parallel possibilities? What if Sliding Doors is true? What if every choice you make leads to your timeline fracturing into endless paths that just keeps multiplying? Possibilities frames this proposal with two people, displaying nearly an hour’s worth of incarnations of their relationship. It’s a nice idea, but one that doesn’t develop any of the individual moments or stories presented. With inconsistent performances and an idea that isn’t fully explored, Possibilities feels like just that – but without the script’s potential coming to fruition.

Jamal Chong and Kate Gwynn take to some scenes better than others. Their intimacy is awkward in some scenes, but their flirtation and sense of play in others is sweetly genuine. The inconsistency is frustrating, as the potential for great performances is there. Chong is also the writer and director – the choice to wear this trio of hats is undoubtedly the root of the issues with this play and production.

The design is minimalistic and functional, with monochromatic chairs and a bench being arranged differently for each scene. Switching on clip-on coloured lights one by one as an introduction is a nice visual touch, but one that doesn’t link to the script in any discernible way.

Other than an interesting question posing as a concept, Possibilities falls short of taking a stance on the impact such a world would have on the individuals that it places under a microscope. The rejection of a narrative arc in favour of a collection of scenes only related through their characters actively prohibits development of this piece, and there is a pronounced absence of dramaturgy. With a bigger creative team and any sort of answer to the concept question, Possibilities would be become a more well-formed reality.

Possibilities runs through 26 October.

The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.

Advertisements

World Without Us, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

https://www.thestage.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/World-Without-Us-700x455.jpg

Imagine the world if the entire human population disappeared suddenly, without a trace. What would it look like after a day, a month, a century, an era? A lone performer from Belgian company Ontroerend Goed methodically describes how the theatre space we sit in would change as a focal point within the wider world’s transformation. Delivered in a near monotone on a stage bare except for a grey obelisk, World Without Us is a meditative account of our solar system’s lifespan, and humanity’s inconsequence in the great scheme of planetary existence.

Karolien De Bleser quietly narrates this epoch-spanning journey of our planet with matter of fact coolness. What she describes really is remarkable in its compressed state, but the almost total lack of inflection makes the text pedestrian even in its most dramatic moments. Her movement around the space is relaxed and random, to look for meaning in it feels silly what with the story she tells.

With the ability to focus on the story without the mind drifting to topics such as what to have for lunch, the overall effect is a sense of calm acceptance that our lives, whilst impacting the planet immediately, really don’t matter. Our absence has little effect other than the gradual decay and burial of the artefacts we leave behind. Even in periods of environmental turmoil such as we see in the planet’s history, the impact is meaningless.

Even though the sun eventually swells and engulfs the Earth before it dies, all is not lost. Lightyears away, a single human artefact remains with a friendly but assumptive purpose. Its contents are, depending on one’s world view, absurd or incredibly beautiful. Perhaps they are both.The whimsy of human invention is particularly poignant at this moment.

World Without Us is a lovely, contemplative piece of performance and would work particularly well as an audio recording. As theatre, it could come across as flat, or upsetting or remarkable, depending each individual’s world view. Calmly provocative, it is wonderfully wide open to interpretation and effect.

World Without Us is now closed.

The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.

 

How To Survive a Swarm of Bees, Bread & Roses Theatre

The heaps of white pillows that cover most of the stage make How To Survive a Swarm of Bees look like a slumber party or a kids’ fort, something with a lot of fun and giggles. But Anna Crace’s short play is far from the happy cuddliness implied by the set. With a Scandi aesthetic in both design and dialogue, this austere piece of new writing gives little away except for the looming apocalypse Of a massive storm and a swarm of bees that threatens the existence of two young couples barricaded into their homes. The minimalist text bears more than a passing resemblance to Beckett, but it’s so sparse that there isn’t much depth or substance despite the interesting premise.

The unnamed hetero couples in their early 20s live separately, but their lives and conflicts parallel each other in the moment. Rather than the somewhat disappointing story, the most interesting feature is the intertwining scenes where the characters occasionally swap partners (not that way, pervert) without acknowledging the change. The device is gently disorientating, aiding the distance from reality that creates a state of reflection in the audience. These four are Every Men in the face of a crisis, with fear, anxiety and need that manifest in four different ways. We can relate to them all, but know they are not of our world.

The lack of action and a threadbare story is frustrating, through. The only thing the four do is talk around the problem and argue, and shift pillows around in their confinement. What exactly is going on in the world? Disappearing news broadcasters and friends choosing to live underground are never fully explained. Why is the world reacting so strongly to a storm? Why are these couples fighting about staying in their homes with the buzzing growing ever louder? They allude to consequences of nature creeping into the house and “the nets” failing, but what are these consequences? It’s never revealed, but easily could be by lengthening this script by another twenty minutes or so.

There is some distinction between the different characters, but other than Laurie Ogden’s agoraphobic young woman, the rest are very similar. Should we stay or go? How long can we realistically eat the soup we’ve stockpiled? How will our relationship hold up with our choice? What do we do if one stays and the other leaves? These questions are debated, but never really answered. The end of the play is abrupt and feels like an interval; some audience hang around for a while and then, confused, head into the night.

The four performances are fine, but tend towards minimalist reflection as well. Though inherently theatrical in structure, elements of this script would be great for telly. The intimacy works well in small fringe theatres, but would most likely come across as flat anywhere larger.

Anna Crace is certainly onto some interesting ideas and design concepts in How To Survive a Swarm of Bees, but the need further development and clearer means of communication.

How To Survive a Swarm of Bees runs until 20th March.

The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.