Total Immediate Collective Imminent Terrestrial Salvation
National Theatre of Scotland in association with the Royal Court Theatre, Teatro do Bairro Alto, Lisbon and Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts
Royal Court Theatre
Tim Crouch has always been far more interested in concepts than creating a traditional, well-made play, often burying meanings so far beneath the surface of his relations that they will completely pass some viewers by.
His latest piece for the National Theatre of Scotland, which comes to London directly from the Edinburgh International Festival, definitively falls into that category.
Audience members are seated in two concentric rings around an open playing space. On each seat is a hardback book sharing its title with that of the play.
Like five-year-olds, we are obliged to electively follow the text of what turns out to be a cross between a graphic novel and a play script, some lines read by three actors representing a character each, others by members of the audience playing the same individuals.
The story is minimal in the extreme. Following a tragedy on thin ice, the bereaved family members head to Bolivia. There, they are separated, mother Anna returning home while father Miles and daughter Bonnie, albeit using a pseudonym, become the leading lights in a millennial cult imminently expecting the world to end during a solar eclipse.
Most of the story follows the attempts of Susan Vidler as Anna to persuade Shyvonne Ahmmad’s brainwashed, reluctant Sol (Bonnie) to escape the madness.
The final scenes also involve Miles, portrayed by the playwright Tim Crouch, who is the cult’s far from charismatic high priest.
Beyond this, nothing much happens for what is scheduled as 70 minutes duration, although it may stretch to rather longer depending on audience grasp and delivery of lines.
Quite what the underlying message might be should probably be left to individual viewers or possibly Tim Crouch to determine. At a guess, we are supposed to identify with those that blindly embrace cults, obliged to turn over pages by instruction and mildly chastised whenever we get ahead of our fellows.
Reviewer: Philip Fisher