There's conventional theatre, with characters, setting, plot, dialogue and so on. There's slightly left-field theatre, which may jettison one or maybe two of these elements in favour of a more impressionistic treatment of a general theme. There's performance art, which challenges the audience through their presence at a particular unique event of one kind or another. And then there's self-indulgent claptrap which would probably like to be performance art but has no idea what if anything it wants to say and can't be bothered to present it at all coherently. You may already have guessed which of these categories Pink Orthodox by Shunt, at the Riverside Studios, falls into.
A man (David Rosenberg) dressed as an Orthodox Jew (including the white hose of some traditions) sits among the audience, along with several life-size mannequins dressed identically. The same man appears on a pair of video monitors, first in unison then in dialogue; the two figures disappear off screen to box with each other. The "live" man does a brief stand-up routine in what is probably Yiddish. He interacts with his video selves, and with a life-size projection which appears to make his shadow split off from him. He makes declarations which are by turns absurd, banal or incomprehensible. Meanwhile, a woman (Hannah Ringham) sits off at one side, setting out shot-glasses on a drinks tray and occasionally breaking off to trudge Beckett-like across the stage or draw a chalk outline around a magician's bunch of flowers on the floor. (Are you getting the idea by now?)
The man exits; a video sequence shows him nipping off to a local shop. On his return, he invites us onto the stage for a drink. A curtain is drawn to screen us off from him as he moves alone into the auditorium. On the video monitors we see him supposedly setting fire to our personal effects. The woman sings. The end. Some parts of the show are repeated in different media, but none of it seems to speak of anything external to the hour of the performance... well, of anything except Shunt's evident self-satisfaction at being so clever-clever.
Every couple of years or so – that's around one show in every 400-500 that I see – I encounter a piece which makes me simply seethe with fury at the company's arrogance and torture in having asked me to sit through it, even for free. Well, statistically I should now be clear until mid-2003; that's something, at least. At one point Rosenberg self-aggrandisingly declares, "I am the new black"; no, David, you are the new crap.
Written for the Financial Times.
Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.
Return to index of reviews for the year 2001
Return to master reviews index
Return to main theatre page
Return to Shutters homepage