I never walk out of a theatre performance early. The cultural sponge wedged in the pit of my stomach just won’t let me. After all, some plays go from ‘bring on the break’ to ‘wow’ within the space of an interval. ‘The World in Pictures’ however, goes from strange to downright weird and unsettling in a matter of two hours. I knew there was a reason I like the odd wine break.
For the audience at the Riverside Studios last night, there was no beverage pitt stop; the escape route was sealed and padlocked… not that we wanted to leave. On the contrary, the madness on stage was far too intriguing to risk missing a single milli-second.
‘The World in Pictures’ is the latest production by unique theatre group Forced Entertainment. They’re famous for crazy, experimental theatre, mind-bending theatrical expression and improvisation. They sure delivered.
Too much detail in a review can spoil the surprise but I’d need to write a novel to cover everything so uncover your eyes and read on. A lengthy soliloquey opened proceedings – after receiving advice from his fellow actors, Jerry stood alone on the pitch black stage, telling a long winded story about time wasting in a foreign city. The hecklers in the back corner let rip ten minutes in to his speel. Completely uneccessary but I guess pre-pubescent drama students have an image to uphold (and young girls to impress). To his credit, he went on undeterred.
Ten yawns later, we found ourselves falling from the top of a building towards certain death. Wohoo – at least there was a chance the sodding soliloquey and pre-death flashbacks might splatter alongside him. Unfortunately they didn’t.
Like Jerry, the rest of the play spiralled into glorious disarray. The history of mankind began with cavemen. Logical so far but that’s where it ends. If you’ve ever wondered what the Flinstones on crack would look like, your answer can be found in the Rivereside Studios. It’s like a roller coaster ride gone wrong; where people are flung screaming from the carriages, expectant joy riders concussed by unexpected jolts to the head whilst dazed and confused onlookers duck to avoid flying debris. Sound like fun? In hindsight, it was.
The next two hours were filled with chaos… unnerving, uncomfortable dispays of screaming, gallavanting and bad wigs. The surprisingly composed narrator explained the journey of man through the ages as her fellow actors ran about like – well, cavemen. Props are wheeled in, prehistoric spears were thrown at the images of wild animals on a television screen, fake snow were thrown from above and all the while, the audience wondered… “what the hell is this all about?”
A certain element of ambiguity, creative mayhem and random props can be expected from Forced Entertainment. Again, in this day and age an element of nakedness is all part of the modern theatre experience. After all, Harry Potter is set to strip off in the name of art soon. Let’s hope he doesn’t adopt the same caveman-esque penis thrusting techniques. “Oh Looord” cried the woman next to me when three cavemen simulalted ‘self loving’ over a laptop.
Masturbation aside, there were some classic moments… the mutual audience discomfort certainly bought us all together. The symbolism of the pre-death images flashing on screen and Jerry’s final speech reminded me that yes, the world is a crazy place and yes, I may be dead in fifty years time. Why not let loose a little sometimes? With the help of the cast, I also realised I was too wrapped up in my own world to notice who sat across from me in the tube on the way to the theatre. Go on, break free of your comfort zone and challenge your imagination.
As the narrator herself said, “We need more f****** reasonable behaviour on stage”.