PEOPLE SHOW 127 HANDS OFF
by The People Show.
Toynbee Studios (Theatre) 28 Commercial Street E1 6AB To 29 November 2014.
Runs 1hr 30min No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 28 November.
People Show unusually earnest as they go for virtual gaming.
Since popping-up in a London bookshop basement in 1966, there have been 127 People Shows. Though there’s no record of 125 or 126, while 124 (which has just played two early evenings in a smaller space at Toynbee Studios) was a half-hour cataclysm imaging nuclear Fallout, first seen in Glasgow).
In 127, founder-member Mark Long – the voice of the People – is, incredibly, near silent while George Khan has downed the sax on which his riffs have energised many a Show, for a melodious flute in Fallout and an unidentifiable, low-noted wind instrument which quietly adds moments of menace to Hands Off.
Which looks at one of the significant things to have happened during the People’s near half-century span: the potentially dehumanising advent of video games, with their often lurid and violent content infiltrating young minds.
Most of the performers here never make the stage; they sit in front of it, like judges in a beauty competition (another form of contest which dehumanises, while apparantly offering a sense of individuality).
Fronted by computers these, generally older, people keep trying out programmes for a video game, enacted by three young adults on stage. Questioned calmly but firmly through a microphone, the three make decisions which lead to the happiness of progress or, more often, terror or annihilation.
Because this is theatre, and the onstage trio are People in every sense, their emerging frustration at blind alleys and arbitrary death emerges in objections, which merely lead to alternative instructions. All becomes for the greater good of the game.
Then the programmers themselves, who have had the freedom to walk about and eat or drink without the disastrous consequences in the game, begin walking-out, disgusted at what they’re creating. Finally, masked figures emerge, wandering-on perplexed with a scene of physical carnage piled behind.
Ninety minutes is a long time to make the point; the insistent situation brings the People Show close to another non-narrative group, Forced Entertainment. As with Tim Etchells’ company, you’ll either see this as an unrelieved refusal to go anywhere or a unique experience beyond the reach of traditional theatre.
Performers: Gareth Brierley, Nigel Edwards, Rob Kennedy, George Khan, Lyndal Warwick, Laura Dee Milnes, Jack Trow, Jessica Worrall. Sadie Cook, Fiona Creese, Mark Long,
Designer: Jessica Worrall.
Lighting: Nigel Edwards.
Sound/Video: Rob Edwards.
Assistant designer: Emma Tompkins.