Saturday, 28 September 2019

THEATRE REVIEW: The Accident Did Not Take Place - HOME, Manchester.

Orbit Festival is taking place until 5th October and aims to provide Manchester theatregoers with some great, thought-provoking entertainment in this wonderfully vibrant arts' space that is HOME. The premise of the entire festival is to explore the divisive nature of our world and what we can do collectively to conquer these divides. So already, I knew I wasn’t in for an evening of passive theatre watching; this production was going to make me think.

On entering the auditorium, the stage was laid bare, with some words projected onto a backdrop from one of the greatest philosophers of the 21st Century... Justin Timberlake! The words related to whether an event is even an event, after the moment has passed. Although this made me think, I did wonder why on earth anyone would ever quote Timberlake, barring an instance when one has no other alternative but to bring 'sexy' back. The idea that after an event has happened, if you cannot see it anymore, has it really happened at all, is undoubtedly a philosophical one but is it going to change the world? I’m not sure.

YesYesNoNo’s short 60-minute production began with the cast of three entering the stage and describing to the audience a plane crash which took place between London and New York. These performers were the witnesses of this accident, as opposed to the victims. They described the documentary evidence of the crash on the news, the YouTube clips and the pictures all over the media, but despite their dissatisfaction with the evidence, they want to feel closer to the event. Was this the idea behind the whole piece: we crave too much information and media coverage? We are hungry for tragedy? We shouldn’t gain satisfaction by other people’s misery? Who knows... I’m not even sure if YesYesNoNo knew either!

So, this is when the performance took a whole new direction and they invited someone on stage from the audience to relive the events based on the evidence from the on-board cameras and black box recordings of the crash. The audience participant, Ross, was instructed to re-enact the series of moves as known from the evidence, but it was all very superficial. The cast asked Ross to ‘really feel’ what he was acting-out so that they could feel closer to the accident but the group took it in turns to make Ross re-enact the events around 7 times . . .possibly more (I stopped counting)! To begin with it was interesting, then humorous and then just downright frustrating.

When they were finished with this exercise, they moved on to asking Ross to re-enact moments of his life so that they could ‘feel closer’ to him. Questions such as ‘Show me how you looked when you fell in love’ and ‘show me how you looked when you were born’ (an impossible look to recreate) and I began to wonder if this piece was all about social media and the way people have to document their lives. . .or it didn’t really happen at all. I started to warm to the piece again at this point as I felt I had some notion of what this way-too-clever-for-its-own-good piece of contemporary theatre might be about.

I’m not sure what to make of YesYesNoNo’s production of The Accident Did Not Take Place. The rest of the audience, who I suspect were cleverly scratching their chins, seemed to enjoy it. But did I like it? Strangely, yes. Was it fun to watch? Not really. Were the performers energetic and entertaining? Most definitely (and that includes poor Ross!). Did I have a clue what was going on? I don’t think I did. For the most part, this was an enjoyable event, which I doubt even happened… Perhaps Justin Timberlake’s 25 year career never even happened. We can but hope.

Reviewer - Johanna Hassouna-Smith
on - 27/9/19

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