THE MANUAL ORACLE
by Phoebe von Held, Natasha Soobramanien and Luke Williams.
The Yard Theatre Unit 2A Queen’s Yard White Post Lane Hackney Wick E9 5EN To 14 June 2014.
Runs 1hr 30min No interval.
TICKETS: 07548 156266.
Review: William Russell 30 May.
Stimulating to say the least.
Part of the Anxiety Arts Festival London 2014, which explores anxiety through the arts, this is a deeply fascinating affair – not quite a play, more a series of revue sketches which examine how people cope with the world and the threats it poses to their mental state.
It is inspired by the ‘Oraculo manual 7 arte de prudencia’, a Renaissance handbook of survival strategies for courtiers written by a Spanish Jesuit monk. The manual contains some 300 maxims for people to follow so that they may avoid the malevolence of others. Sounds hard going? It is not. The scenes are illuminating, performed well by the four-strong cast and some are very funny indeed.
It all takes place in a white box set, the cast wear white, and the maxims each scene illustrate are projected menacingly onto the walls and floor, threatening to engulf the spectator – which proves very disturbing, as is the use of sound and those inner voices. We see the man who hears voices trying to be allowed to see his medical notes. This is refused. It could make his condition worse. But equally not getting to see them achieves the same end.
There are Wall Street traders speculating on the 2007 financial crash with no thought of others, immigrants confronted by implacable jobsworths at the border, and Mrs Thatcher – in the funniest scene – learning to speak in that sonorous voice while her speech writers create the notorious no such thing as society script.
To be honest one feels they might have come a little closer to the present as we have had leaders whose mental state deserves evisceration more recently than the Lady, but it is a tribute to her greatness that she is still such a sacred monster. It is a collective piece, well worth catching and the theatre is easily reached on the Overground.
Cast: Terence Frisch, Ruth D’Silva, Peter Sandys-Clarke, Rosie Thomson.
Director: Phoebe von Held.
Designer/Costume: Moi Tran.
Lighting: Studio ZNA.
Sound: Jamie Hamilton.
Projection consultant: Charlie Hope.