HOME, Manchester – until 24 February 2018
Guest reviewer: Daniel Shipman
On the Outskirts of a Large Event is the debut touring production of Sheffield-based theatre company The Bare Project. It features two performers – Nicola Blackwell and Rose Gray – their on-stage relationship has obviously had a lot of work put into it. Despite being given almost no information about the characters throughout the course of the play, the dynamic way the two interact is constantly interesting to watch.
The play deals, in a unique and strange way, with issues of climate change, populism and memory. Handouts given to the audience labels The Bare Project’s style of theatre as ‘magic realist and experimental’ and this is an effective way of describing the stylistic nature of the production.
The play does not totally reject the notion of a plot, but it certainly doesn’t tell a story in any straightforward manner. Opening with the character of Lucien regaining consciousness after a mysterious head injury, the audience is forced to experience the disorientation of having almost no facts to cling to. This is a clever device, enabling empathy in the absence of any established character, but the cryptic nature of the dialogue quickly becomes quite irritating.
The piece also contains a nod to the role that the media has to play in issues such as the demonisation of immigrants. The quickfire, hysterical and almost non-sensical headlines read out by the two performers are hilarious for reasons I can’t quite put my finger on, perhaps because they helped the audience realise how close to absurd the real world is.
My personal highlight of the piece was the projections, provided by Will Monks. Cast on to five tall pieces of translucent material which were suspended from the ceiling, these complemented the action perfectly and provided a gorgeous backdrop which I could have stared at for hours. The set, featuring a large circle of grey sand, was another of the play’s strong suits.
If you’re tired of conventional plot and character, On the Outskirts of a Large Event will be a welcome change.