Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Panic

Devised by the company
Improbable Theatre
Barbican Pit
(2009)

Production photo

Improbable are a highly respected improvisational and experimental theatre company whose work is always likely to be iconoclastic.

For this reviewer, Panic had the quality of being in someone else's dream. It was disjointed, meandering and ultimately meaningless.

The company of four are ostensibly there to create a theatrical performance based on "the Great God Pan". They do this on a set largely comprising a scaffolding structure and vast quantities of inventively used brown paper.

Phelim McDermott, a tubby man in his late forties, is Pan, while an actress, a retired aerialist and a former PA play his three nymphs.

First though, they tell us a little about themselves; one imagines true revelations about the individual actors but who can be certain?

For the next 100 minutes, they mix tales of Pan, portrayed rather grotesquely as an ugly ageing roué, with more tales of their own lives.

By the conclusion, we know that Pan and Mr McDermott are obsessed with sex, both are old goats and the nymphs have led troubled existences. We also learn a very limited amount from the realms of Greek mythology.

Where Improbable score most highly is in elements of the staging and the ethereal live keyboard music of Nick Powell. There are a good number of memorable images, often created using video technology or low tech, brown paper props and best of all both together when the Nymphs played themselves with paper bags over their heads enhanced by facial projections.

This is the kind of physical theatre that largely ditches meaning and is then adored by those in tune with it. Sadly, if you are not, it is extremely hard going.

Ray Brown reviewed this production in Leeds

Reviewer: Philip Fisher