In a Nutshell

Ben Duke
Lost Dog
The Place

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Ben Duke Credit: Rachel Bunce

Half a year without theatre and forms of all forms of performance mediated through technology. Can you define exactly what you’ve been missing, what the difference is? What does it mean: “going to the theatre”?

As theatre struggles to come back but still faces an uncertain future, there still looms the spectre that live theatre in the form that most people know it could become a thing of the past, something future generations will not experience. That is the premise behind this short film conceived and performed by Ben Duke, which was commissioned by The Place and Rural Touring Dance Initiative, supported by Worthing Theatres and filmed by Rachel Bunce.

“I am a choreographer and a performer,” Ben Duke tells us, “or I was.” He is speaking to a future without theatre.

In a Nutshell presents a man in an empty auditorium trying to describe what theatre was. He is not very good at it and perhaps that’s the point. He talks of a theatre with its red plush seats, people close together, perhaps the person next to you even pushing their leg against yours. He remembers the characters on stage: Hamlet, a big polar bear, a horse; recalls moments of stories, scenes he remembers (and that you will recognise).

There is a wry humour in this halting lament on the loss of shared experience, loss of connection between actor and audience. A loss that we’ve also been feeling in the wider world in our own lives.

This fifteen-minute film works not in what it tells you but it what it makes you remember, what it makes you appreciate as we struggle to ensure survival with theatres dark if not in the open air or with their audience scattered in odd isolation.

Reviewer: Howard Loxton