All in all you are just another brick in the wall. The functionality business Collectif and Then (operating with Karkatag Kolektiv) take Pink Floyd’s lyric virtually actually, making their audience members, if not bricks in the wall, cogs in the machine: moving parts in an elaborate physical metaphor about society. It’s ingenious and a lot of fun, if larger on concept than content.
Here interactive theatre meets social experiment. You are “part of the machine”, a disembodied voice informs the audience as they wriggle into white lab coats and security goggles and line up at the door, ready to clock in to the method. As soon as inside they are allotted tasks on an absurd Heath Robinson-like production line: pedalling baroque contraptions to drive conveyor belts running from workstation to workstation piling stuff on to pallets — all in order to fill plastic bags with sand, water or hot air. Each now and then, for no reason, every person is essential to jump. Not so various from the day job, some may reflect darkly.
Interactive theatre meets social experiment in ‘The Machine’ © Richard Davenport
The second operation includes loading mentioned bags on to human machines, 3 of the circus performers behind the show. 1, “the human claw” (Lucie N’Duhirahe), dangles from a beam to collect as several bags of air as achievable a second (Natalie Reckert) holds a handstand and invites workers to suspend bags of water from her upturned body. The third (Francesca Hyde), most disconcertingly, is winched into the air by her hair as workers load sandbags on to a suspended platform.
This is where the show becomes most exciting — and where it requirements to expand. As soon as the audience/employees realise that their work is causing her discomfort, they instinctively pause. Some then start to unload — to revolt against The Machine — despite being warned that their disobedience has been noted. But there is no adhere to-up and no further examination of what occurs when social conditioning and moral imperative come into conflict.
And all round there is a sense that the show could dig deeper. It is an intriguing development on circus, taking the co-operation, physicality and physics of circus into interactive and symbolic territory. It touches on considerable questions about the rat-race, about the role of humans in an increasingly mechanised planet, about endurance and about why we operate. But it hasn’t incorporated a way to discover the concerns a lot more totally. As it stands, it’s quirky and inventive, but, like so several machines, it runs out of steam.
To October 8, barbican.org.uk