November 23rd, Aberystwyth Arts Centre, 7.30pm.
I think that the oceans might have begun to boil. Or perhaps they already were and we were too entranced with sitting in a theatre, listening to somebody talking about how the ocean's might one day boil, too busy applauding, to notice.
Rarely, are moments gifted to us when we can step back from this, our own noise, for a moment. To step, with total commitment, into somebody else's opera; to make room for one hand clapping (and other such luxuries).
Being an audience is an experiment. An experiment in paying attention. An audience is both one person and all the people and all the people as one person.
We tend to forget this though, when we buy our tickets, putting all the pressure upon who we are audiencing for, making out that theirs' is the only activity under scrutiny. Sometimes though, just sometimes, that vulnerability barrier is removed. Sometimes, instead of feeding off one another, bouncing energy back and forth in some sort of abstractedly hungry game of tennis, the audience and the actor loop together. There is a conversation inside somebody else's head, in which everyone has a voice. Thus, instead of disappearing for the jurisdiction, everyone becomes more present.
This is what those of us did, who attended Doppelgangster's latest One Man Show (sans snake). Within the Round Studio in Aberystwyth's Arts Centre, we nestled like little vipers in a basket. Before us was a triangulated stage, a chair, a microphone, a screen, a person.
It was a simple account of a snake bite, the story that is.
To be more precise, it was an account of a scientifically recorded experience of being bitten by a Boomslang.
To be totally precise, it was an account - we never saw the snake, although we knew it was there.
"Drawing on the true, self-documented death of world famous herpetologist Dr Karl Patterson Schmidt, historical accounts of the religious ritual of Snake Handling, Doppelgangster’s own personally documented accounts of self-poisoning, and reptilian myths of genesis and the coming apocalypse, EVERYBODY LOSES interrogates societal obsessions with eternal youth, eternal life, and the destruction of our planet." (AAC)
Thus states the show's marketing blurb. I won't disagree with the appraisal, however I will move it a little away from anhilism. For me, this show was emblematic of survival - not of the body but of experience. A value was placed upon recording and tracking thoughts, of interrogating an honest humanity; of humanity's need to keep moving at any cost. To purge and engage at a distance, to be in denial and yet most particularly informed, to be clearly going nowhere whilst running; keeping right on running. Words sticking to other words like musical refrains, a cadence of denial. No margin for error. This was the madness of the snake bite, the myth of eternity. The almost-frenzied nature of Dr Schmidt's demise was relentless like the sound of a typewriter printing from a Word Processor in one's memory.
It was loud. The concept, I mean. It was loud and uncompromising and exhausting and emotional; funny, poignant, universal. Rather like life - only with better timing. Shadow and light played a wonderful dance and the script flowed like a river, deep as mountain pool, as sustaining as a saline drip.
Staged Post Modernism can be ungrounded, pretentious and essentially vapid. Climate Art can be yet another person in plastic, sculpting ice. This was none of those. It was approachable whilst challenging, skilled and confident with impeccable pausing; a masterclass in techniques without ever feeling like an exercise. It made difficult concepts oddly accessible. Payne-full puns a plenty, it played with our understanding of words as if we were sharing in the joke, comfortable with it being at our own expense. It was un-sited, yet specific, performance.
This, this was Sci-Art:
and now everybody else needs to up their game.