100 words 100 plays: Reviewed

I’m not really sure who was involved in this dramatic project, which took place on 7th part of St Andrews’ On The Rocks festival. Apparently, my friend Richard and I watched it in Venue 2 of the Union. All these suggested truths are radically unclear. What I can claim with some certainty is that a performance took place, one which I found a little hard to grasp, but one which the audience seemed to enjoy.

Perhaps some of the readers are familiar with “Post-Conceptual” art. As a label, it sounds more than slightly ridiculous. One of the most famous practioners, Maurizio Bolognini, created a piece called Programmed Machines, in which images are wirelessly broadcast from various computational units installed within a room. Lacking screens, the audience or viewer can never actually see these generated pictures. Bizarre. I would say that 100 words 100 plays was a post-conceptual performance. Much attention had obviously been given to the scripts. Densely allusive and all rather coherent, there seemed to be several narratives vying for the audience’s attention. These involved, at once and not, psychiatric wards, airport terminals, private diaries and all sorts of other stock ideas about the cultural experience of the modern, Western world. In truth, some of this seemed a little offensive; I am not by nature righteous (Four Lions is a great film) but some of the, maybe unintended, metaphors of self-diagnostic youths, Messiah complexes and terror suspects struck rather harder than they should have.

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That being said, it was an interesting idea. Someone on the team was obviously familiar with Punchdrunk, the modern theatre company who pioneer immersive theatre on a global scale. Audience participation was voluntarily enforced, leaving me and Richard feeling remarkably uncomfortable. It’s not so much that I’d call myself a dramatic traditionalist/conservative, more than the half-suggested instructions echoing over the sound system gave a (hopefully intentionally) disturbing effect. Though I’m not sure if she was involved, I feel like I should praise Anastasia for her acting. Quite frankly, there might not have been anyone of that name in the building at the time. Such is the ambiguity of a post-conceptual performed reality.

If there was a feminist angle, it was clearly well-developed and considered. In my mind at least, the cast was exclusively female. Again, this could be incorrect. During one particularly surreal moment, I caught eyes with Dominic Kimberlin, who also seemed to be reviewing (or was he writing a new play there and then?!) and he shot me a demonic smile. This too could have been part of the experience itself. I can only guess. To summarise this show, or my understanding of it, would be glib. Literally.

At the end of the show (though it may still be going on, as you read, inside the caverns of the Sports Building) we were all asked to write down a word. As far as I remember, I wrote down process.

Process.

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