Non Zero One
Roundhouse and Salisbury Playhouse
Salisbury Playhouse

You think titles should have capital letters? Yes, well, you haven’t come across this company—Non Zero One—before, have you? Me neither.

It’s interactive, is it? That’s a bit intimidating in itself. Sounds as if we, the audience, are going to be expected to Do Things.

It takes place in the Salberg, the Playhouse’s studio theatre. But all the seats have notices on them with big black crosses. Who’s going to dare to move them to sit down?

Are we really going to have to sit in those rows of chairs in what’s normally the central acting space? Are we allowed? I mean, they’ve got technology—big headphones draped over the back of each chair and seriously purposeful bags with equipment showing through their plastic windows, a torch, a pen and, most scary of all, a small notebook. Doesn’t look good. Will there be an exam before we’re allowed to leave?

But there’s reassurance and help from lovely Young People who hone in and explain the switch for the blue, red and green lights that will give us access to different speakers.

And in the meantime we can sit back and relax as we are suddenly enveloped by darkness, then find ourselves in the passenger seat of a vehicle on the motorway—not sure if it’s a car or a delivery lorry—and listening to the early—very early—morning DJ playing our favourites: Tom Johnston ("Where are you tonight?"), George Ezra ("Budapest"), Bill Withers ("Lovely Day"), Destiny’s Child ("Independent Women"), Bryan Adams ("Summer") and Frankie Goes to Hollywood ("Always On My Mind"). Lovely!

And great that we are not just listening, but actually there in the studio with the charismatic presenter, John Hunter, who sits to the side of the screen and emerges at intervals to give us information and move the action along.

But this can’t last, can it? It’s too relaxing. It’s supposed to be about mountain-climbing. It’s meant to be a challenge, even if you’re doing it in a car.

And here’s where the audience becomes involved. It’s about decisions we’ve made, firstly over the last ten years. We can’t talk (earphones) so the screen’s switched off and we turn to face the person behind us and exchange information on our little notepads.

Then back to the screen. There’s the inspirational widow who finds fulfilment after tragedy, then the children and teenagers who don’t have a whole lot of experience to draw on, so settle for ambitions. One thoughtful lad has considered the question but can’t decide between a snorkeller, an artist or a spy. So how would the audience choose? A surprising number of them would like to be artists.

There are, ominously, empty chairs on the platform. Will members of the audience volunteer to tell us about their ambitions and life-affecting decisions? Ten brave souls climb the steps onto the podium to be questioned by the audience.

Then we’ve got the screen back. We’re moving at walking pace over grass-covered mounds with occasional tents. Are we in the Lake District, the Yorkshire Moors, the Highlands of Scotland? No matter. We’ve reached our goal. We’ve climbed the mountain.

It’s quiet and peaceful. We all think about our own situation. Do we have a life plan? Do we think it’s too late to initiate action, to make life-changing decisions (There’ll be many informal discussions in the foyer long after the final curtain call) or shall we be happy to settle for what we’ve got?

But in the meantime there’s an actual decision to be made. There’s a large plastic case at the end of e row containing packets of crisps. They’re in three different flavours. Surprising how difficult it is to choose. Others in my row are getting impatient.

I settle for the cheese and onion.

Reviewer: Anne Hill

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