52 Souls

Nat Henderson and Joe Strickland
Chronic Insanity

52 Souls Credit: Chronic Insanity
52 Souls Credit: Chronic Insanity (screenshot)
52 Souls Credit: Chronic Insanity (screenshot)
52 Souls Credit: Chronic Insanity (screenshot)

Every individual who views 52 Souls will get a different experience. They get the chance to see about a dozen short pieces out of 52 solo performances by 52 actors in 50 minutes of allotted viewing time. What they see is decided by random selections from a pack of playing cards, which are shuffled before every choice. Mathematicians can work out the number of permutations possible for 12 from 52, but it is unlikely that any two audience members will see the same.

You can use your own cards or open an electronic pack online, which will make shuffling easier. The online pack gave me a couple of repeat selections. I’m not sure whether that is deliberately programmed to emphasise those elements but I suspect not. In fact, I saw the show twice to widen the range of my viewing.

These 52 takes are all in some way related to the idea of death, but writers Strickland and Henderson have spread their net wide. Despite the theme, they aren’t all sombre, you could even call some of them comic and all the ones I saw got vivid performances from a young cast. Most have been shot in domestic locations but the presentation is professional.

One episode is particularly topical in looking at the way that a virus spreads globally but it isn’t gloomy, nor is a lively piece from a female vampire (recorded in an English churchyard but delivered in Greek with subtitles) though a satirical account of what to do under nuclear attack may prove a chill reminder for those who remember what government instructions used to be.

An item inspired by the Argentinian mothers of the Plaza de Mayor whose children had disappeared under the junta’s dictatorship and another on the sadness of miscarriage are perhaps the most moving that I saw, the strangest an account of the self-mummification of meditating monks and there is an ingenious and intriguing account of a suicide that went wrong told through cardboard figures.

You need to book in to get access but you are given the opportunity to view the show for free and then make what donation you feel appropriate. Give it a try. There is good stuff here.

Reviewer: Howard Loxton

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