Wednesday 13 February 2013

A museum of oddities

In the Beginning Was The End, Somerset House, London

A stream of naked workers lazily ascends a winding staircase. A suited man swoops past a window, plunging to his death in slow motion. A bunch of robots go rogue, fish swim around a boardroom submerged in water while an employee repeatedly slides down a slanting desk. Dreamthinkspeak certainly know how to pull together a collection of arresting images – but is In the Beginning Was The End any more than a museum of oddities?

The trouble with Tristan Sharps’ production is that it’s stuck somewhere between an art installation and interactive theatre. For much of the time the show resembles an exhibition and the audience is required to create its own energy and line of enquiry. Within the labyrinth that is Somerset House we’re presented with vast spaces, devoid of actors but packed with odd exhibits. We wind through shadowy corridors filled with striking artwork, deserted offices crammed with throbbing machines, gloomy rooms lined with flickering video installations and magical archways, laced with ivy and humming with the scent of lemon.

Perhaps if this show had simply been a collection of truncated images, all vaguely pointing towards a broken world, it might have worked. Yet these static stretches are squashed in between vague narrative sections, which demand more of this production and its audience. Just as we’re adjusting to the still rhythm of an exhibition, we enter the Head Quarters of ‘Fusion International’. An obscure storyline emerges. We’re shown a series of inventions, which have been designed to make life easier but seem to be tipping both the employees and customers over the edge.

These inventions and employees then appear as motifs throughout the rest of the show. Such repetition changes the energy of this production. Suddenly we expect to be led; for the show to have a beginning, middle and end and for our questions to be answered. Expectations are raised and disappointed. 

It makes for a frustratingly obscure piece, which feels intellectually and physically remote. At one point, we walk through a corridor lined with abstract images; sparkling dots that tease at a meaning that never materialises. We strain in front of these attractive images, waiting in vain for a picture to emerge.

Till 30 March 2013


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