Barbican Centre, London EC2
Opened 26 April, 2010

A few years ago the Coming Thing was verbatim theatre, a style which culminated in a company whose performers wear headphones and repeat not just the words of real-life interviewees but also the tone and timbre of the recordings as played back to them. However, it is the nature of Coming Things that they also Go, and the current vogue is for pieces in which we, the audience, wear the headphones and indeed do most of the sharp-end performance.
Post-student company non zero one [sic] have created a 45-minute piece in which six audience members at a time wander around the Barbican Centre, each following an individual path and set of experiences directed by a track of narrative/commentary/instruction played to us on headphones. Our paths may cross those of our fellows or of company members to varying extents; my own experience tended towards the solitary, consisting largely of distant glimpses of someone who, the voice in my ears told me, might or might not be the owner of that voice. In the course of my peregrinations I deposited penny coins on ledges, conducted a brief online chat session on a laptop left conveniently waiting for me, refrained from drinking a paper cupful of Vimto and – this last unintentional – garnered a very strange look from another Barbican-user who happened to be walking past my theoretical significant-other when I called out to her as directed.
The piece aims, or at least claims, to explore personal responses, absences and connections both real and imagined. As with virtually all pieces involving real or simulated one-to-one contact, the degree of intimacy is problematic: a show’s creators generally have to choose between inadequacy and invasiveness. Would Like To Meet inclines towards caution, but it does so with an appealing coyness. In addition to the faux-personal strand of the piece, we are also offered a series of observations on the Barbican Centre’s architecture and décor, though these are seldom sparky enough to make one look at the place afresh. And ultimately, as with most participatory pieces, there is a feeling that the key element of theatre – audience and performers sharing the same space and time, each with comparable amounts at stake in the event – is absent. If we give the piece its content, in what sense is it created for us?

Written for the Financial Times.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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