The Believers Are But Brothers by Javaad Alipoor, Bush Theatre, 3 February 2018

“Please leave your mobile phones on and be sure to set the volume to loud”…

…is not an entreaty you’ll often hear in the theatre just before the start of the show, but for this show it makes a great deal of sense. It makes even more sense to join the Whatsapp group set up for the piece – not a requirement but an experience-enhancing move for sure.

The scene as we entered the theatre

Janie and I both obliged, but while I found all the social media discussion and exposition fascinating, Janie got lost in the techiness of it all and said the piece left her cold…

…which is a shame.

Because the story was, in my view, well written and well told by writer/performer Javaad Alipoor. He shows, through the stories of three disaffected young men, how people can be radicalised through social media, both to Islamic extremism and also to alt-right type fanatical politics.

Janie said she found the whole idea of it rather depressing. It didn’t make me feel that way. Concerned, yes, but not depressed. Disaffected youngsters have always been susceptible to extremism – social media is just the modern way of grooming and recruiting them.

I’m more concerned with the ways social media seem to be polarising opinion and dragging communities apart from each other, rather than fulfilling their potential role as universal media that can bring people closer together.

But that’s another story…and if Javaad Alipoor wants to write a play about that, I’d be up for seeing more of his work…

…but Janie might not be so keen to go with me.

Here is a link to the Bush resource on this piece/production.

Mixed reviews from me and Janie – similarly mixed reviews from the critics – click here for a search term that finds them.

The Encounter, Complicite/Simon McBurney, Barbican, 27 February 2016

When we heard about this Complicite production, The Encounter, Janie and I were really keen to see it, so much so that we sort-of organised the Nicaragua holiday around it; spotting good seats available for a bit later in the run and thus booking to go away beforehand.

Janie and I have always had a soft spot for Complicite – by chance the spare ticket I had which became Janie and my first date in 1992 was for one of their shows at the National; Street of Crocodiles. That was the first time either of us had seen Complicite, so I suppose we were transfixed by Complicite as well as each other.

These matters are all about timing I suppose. Our timing for seeing Encounter, just a few days after returning from Nicaragua, was perhaps not so clever. The jet lag together with the change from 30 degrees Centigrade to 30 degrees Fahrenheit temperatures gave both of us some trepidation ahead of an evening out.

Still, the show is inspired by the novel Amazon Beaming by Petru Popescu, so perhaps we would at least be transported back to that warm tropical feeling? Too right!

Indeed, the show uses an amazing binaural sound technology, where you wear headphones and sense the sounds coming from any direction around your head. One of the tricks is the incredibly realistic sound of mosquitoes buzzing around you. Now we had surprisingly few encounters with those little pests while we were in Nicaragua – the dry, windy season saw to that. But of course everyone is in fear of mozzies out there just now, with prophylaxis unavailable for the dreaded dengue fever, Chikungunya and topically tropically Zika viruses. Indeed Mukul was at only 60% occupancy when we arrived even though it expected 100% occupancy, as 40% of the expected guests (all bookings from the USA) had cancelled in fear of Zika. Suffice it to say that Janie and I were still highly sensitive to that mozzie sound. Thank you, Mr McBurney.

But of course the show is an absolute triumph. We lost ourselves in the Amazon of our heads for a short while much as Loren McIntyre was genuinely lost in the Amazon for a long while back in the 1960s.

Here is Complicite’s own bumf on the production.  Here follow some of the deserved rave reviews from Edinburgh:

Of course Complicite (at least in the hands of Simon McBurney himself) is no longer acrobatic, movement-oriented shows like Street of Crocodiles. Be fair, the physical stuff he/they were doing nearly 25 years ago was extraordinary enough. So McBurney now adapts his imagination to other means of stimulating our senses – mostly aurally this time – and still he can surprise and thrill.

This was one hot ticket and we are so pleased that we made the effort to book and make our plans around this wonderful production.