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Review: Total Immediate Collective Imminent Terrestrial Salvation at the Royal Court Upstairs

Just when you think you’ve seen it all, here’s a brand new way to present a play

12 September, 2019 — By Clair Chapwell

Shyvonne Ahmmad and Susan Vidler. Photo: Eoin Carey

Two women circle one other. Sol: young, feral, squinting. Anna: older, guarded, sad. Sol spits polemic and rage; Anna reaches out, longing to make a connection. Each reads from a book, the script.

And here’s the kicker. Seated in two concentric circles, audience members each hold the same book and follow the dialogue. We are told exactly when to turn the page.

The books are hardback, and quite beautiful, with exquisite pen and ink drawings by designer Rachana Jadhav. Some pages are script by writer Tim Crouch. Some of the ink drawings are of screaming faces, accidents, landscapes.

Occasionally audience members are asked to read aloud: to play Sol, to play Anna, to deliver speeches about a brave new world which we know from Anna is a sham. A family tragedy occurred 15 years before which we see very early on in the book.

The images are powerful and stay with us throughout the show. We follow members of the family 15 years into the future. The drawings engage us, give us a collective vision of their collective past. Crouch slowly releases information as we turn the pages of the book.

The book is part of the play and Crouch has said that the audience’s role is huge in this play; that there is a reliance on collective responsibility for the story being told. And what a story. Played on many levels constantly throwing up questions. A family at war, truth and lies. Two endings. Which is real?

Just when you think that every method of presenting theatre has been done and tried, you discover you are wrong.

Until September 21
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