Negative space (white room)

How do you define great performance?  Is it the technical accomplishment?  Is it how you feel at the end of the show?  Or is it how long the ideas and images from the show stay in your mind?  I can’t get Reckless Sleepers’ Negative Space out of my head.

The company describe Negative Space as a sister project to their well received Schrödinger (which I haven’t seen but now want to).  They discuss after the show how they took that space – a black box – and inverted it, inside out, constructed it out of bright white plasterboard, and added a floor.  There is initially no obvious way into the space, and no obvious way out.  Actors enter from the top of the 3m high ‘room’, and from trapdoors underneath.  They aggressively use hammers to form openings and doorways, steps and handholds.  They introduce yellow flowers to draw pairs of actors together and push them apart.  People are pushed through walls.  It’s hard to define what this is, but there are elements of visual art, physical theatre, and circus.

There is powerful variation in pace, moving from love story and intimacy to violent destruction in the space of a hammer blow.  There are moments of strong visual humour.  And not a word is spoken.  No additional sound, simple lighting.  Everything is in the interaction between the actors, and their entry into and exit from the space.  There are clearly rules that govern what the actors can do.  Flowers and hammers, plasterboard and plaster dust.  The space itself is central to the story and as it opens up, the dynamics of the piece change significantly.

It’s very different, and I suspect each person will take away a unique, personal experience.  For me it was a powerful piece of performance, thought provoking and emotionally engaging.  At Contact Manchester till 3 March 2016.

Theatre lover, amateur director, occasional actor, writer.

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