One of the recurring interests of the
Shunt performance collective and various of its members and
collaborators seems to be the spectator’s gaze, the blurred line
between performance-watching and voyeurism. Now Shunt’s David Rosenberg
has created a piece in which an audience, seated on the elevated
outdoor terrace of the Lyric Hammersmith (tip: do wrap up warm),
watches a murderous vignette unfold through a number of office windows
on the other side of the square. We are equipped with binoculars, which
limit the field of vision to one window at a time whereas the naked eye
can rapidly shuttle between several pieces of simultaneous action;
however, only through the binoculars can we discern at least one of the
twists in the tale.
The combined effect is somewhere between Hitchcock’s Rear Window
and Francis Coppola’s The Conversation
: we are not only
witnessing events but trying to piece them together as they occur.
Rosenberg’s programme notes suggest that he is at least as interested
in the binaural soundscape transmitted to us through headphones. To be
honest, this struck me as more problematic, since its pre-recorded
nature means that the four performers are in the odd position of having
to mime to the sounds of their own actions, as it were. Max and Ben
Ringham’s acoustic design is remarkable, though: more than once I had
to prise an earpiece away from my head to check that various sounds
were not occurring in the real world.
It is the violence that gives the piece its voyeuristic quality, but
only at certain moments. At others, the dominant note is banal comedy:
actor and comic Neil Edmond’s character, garrulous office nebbish Kim,
bears all the hallmarks of an Edmond creation and is somewhat at odds
with the more portentous elements. And overall, the 70-minute piece is
less challenging than it could be. Six months ago, Australian company
Back To Back performed their piece Small
at Stratford station in east London, in which the
miked-up actors mingled with hundreds of ordinary evening travellers.
That event seemed to raise many more questions about the act of
viewing, especially as on that occasion the audience themselves were
just as conspicuous to the gaze of passers-by. In comparison,
Rosenberg’s piece is a skilfully crafted curio.
Written for the Financial