Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

The Last Straw

Conceived and devised by the company
The People Show
Ovalhouse

Fiona Creese and Gareth Brierley Credit: Zadoc Nava.
Gareth Brierley Credit: Zadoc Nava.
Fiona Creese and Gareth Brierley Credit: Zadoc Nava.

The People Show 130 brings us a man (Gareth Brierley) and a woman (Fiona Creese) talking for sixty minutes in their intensely abstract performance The Last Straw.

Some things about the piece can be described. The set consists of a square performance space with what look like floodlights standing in each corner. In the centre of the space stands a door along with its frame. This is opened once during the show.

The floor is strewn with white straw. Extra straw is stacked up in a metal container at one side of the stage. Towards the back there is a small cage, never used in the show but perhaps a clue to the set’s meaning.

Perhaps the two people are talking in the equivalent of a squirrel’s cage, where the animal runs in a wheel that always keeps it in the same place.

The couple do restlessly shift from one set of interactions to another, never getting anywhere. There is no clear narrative, no obvious development of either a plot or a relationship between the characters. There is simply a series of brief (occasionally evocative) dialogues. I say dialogue because they seem to be directed towards each other though mostly without the other responding as if they have heard what was said.

One sequence switches back and forth between a story told by the man and a very different one told by the woman. He tells of bears being elected to government by squirrels After a financial crises the bears declare martial law and become authoritarian.

She speaks about a lost parrot finally found dead and being picked over by seagulls. It is a story that upsets her so the man whispers a happier version which she happily repeats aloud.

There are moments in the show which are mildly amusing such as the point when the woman begins to converse with the man as if she was a call centre machine offering him a choice of options.

The low unsettling buzz in the background of this show occasionally grows so loud you can’t hear what is said. There was also a sudden incredibly loud fire alarm which had me wondering if I was expected to rush from the theatre.

Had I done so I am not convinced I would have missed anything. I yearned for a less abstract performance, a show that wasn’t simply lots of small stories, slight encounters and jokes thrown together to create something quite elusive.

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna