Produced by The Playground Collective
Q Theatre Loft, until 19 September 2015
‘This is exciting, isn’t it?’ A lightbulb spoke to us, sounding a bit like Stephen Hawking, a bit like Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey. The audience – mainly twenty/thirty-somethings theatre people silently agreed; it was exciting. We had come in round the side of the set, past lots of props and post-its and lockers with names on. Techies moved around us getting things organised. The set was just a white box, but the backstage was alive with action.
A bit like in Noises Off, the audience watch a play while things are happening behind the scenes, though unlike in the Frayn play, this one is not divided by acts - it’s all going on at the same time. The lightbulb is directing a devised play which is yet to be finished. He is the epitome of the ghastly director, uninterested in anyone else’s views, difficult to please, brutally critical, who manages to follow up any moment of charm with some leftfield cruelty. ‘After the carrot, the stick’. The Playground Collective prides itself on strong storytelling and this is all about the mechanics of a satisfying story, a manual writ large. It is seriously meta, which is not to say it isn’t great fun.
Eli Kent plays Simon, a young, privileged, white man. He has just lost his father to motor neurone disease, and is losing his girlfriend, an actress, who has just scored a job in a TV series in Sydney. One day he decides to buy a mysterious box advertised on the Shopping Channel, which sets off a spiral of strange and sinister events. Kent is the only actor on stage, but he is supported by various props/people at the end of a telephone, voiced, openly, by the brilliantly funny and deadpan Victoria Abbott, Hamish Parkinson, and Joel Baxendale, the aforementioned techies/acting stage managers. Everything is so pointless, and yet played for such high stakes the play is both utterly ridiculous and poignant. The theatricality of the show is played with relish – never has a naked mannequin been so beautifully brought to life, a lightbulb contain such power, or people get so cross for so little reason; except when you are in such a show, it does become the be-all and end-all. The ending is a tour de force: all your wants and needs fulfilled, if not forever, for a very good night out.