HOME Theatre, Manchester; Friday 27th September, 2019
<<BREAKING NEWS>> : somewhere on the other side of the world a plane is falling from the sky. YesYesNoNo Theatre have the latest reports: they say that information is scarce and that all contact with the doomed aircraft has been lost.
Suddenly, from the front row of the audience, a hero emerges. In an inventive twist on staging convention, every performance of The Accident Did Not Take Place involves YesYesNoNo inviting a guest actor to take the lead role each night – but we’re told that this actor knows nothing about the plot or the script, this will be a hero who has to fake it to make it.
The entrance of our hero – let’s just call him Powder Keg Ross – is amusing enough at first but very, very quickly an alarming reality hits home: surely they can’t be serious, it would be pure, reckless folly to pluck a clueless civilian out of nowhere to save a doomed plane?
As you might expect, Powder Keg Ross is a reluctant hero, he has no idea what is about to happen, and neither do we. Can Powder Keg Ross save this plane and prevent a terrible accident, will this accident take place?
The enactment of YesYesNoNo’s accident (which may or may not take place) is a fascinating spectacle. The flight / stage attendants of YesYesNoNo are on hand to guide Ross but they’re not immediately happy and ask him to repeatedly deliver the same disaster scene over and over again.
The ~twenty minutes of constant repetition becomes a Sisyphean tragedy, triggering awful memories of other stage shows that have taken repetition too far. And the big question here is why the need for repetition?
Is Powder Keg Ross failing to do his best to prevent a terrible accident, or are YesYesNoNo suggesting that he’s failing to do his best to expressively deliver a scene that he’s only just been introduced to?
Is Powder Keg Ross now fully emotionally invested in the acting challenge before him: has he now placed himself in the mind of a hero who will save this plane and everyone on board?
Eventually the horror of disastrous disaster-themed repetition subsides; the second half of the show is a far more pleasing and much less turbulent journey. A more soothing visage appears on stage, a far more abstract experience involving live camera projections and dramatic musical theme-setting. What follows is an examination of our hero Powder Keg Ross himself. He is now no longer acting, or is he?
The flight attendants of YesYesNoNo carry out a mild but very thorough interrogation of this would-be hero. The questions just keep coming. Show me what it feels like when you wake up in the morning: Ross duly obliges. Show me what it feels like when you are normal: Ross obliges again.
The moral of this story is mysteriously diffuse: did the accident even take place if all we have are still images and minuscule snapshots that fail to coalesce into a viable scene? Are we all not just a collection of still images and poorly-contextualised snapshots?
The accident might not have taken place but what did take place was an intriguing investigation into how we all interpret news of such disasters. Who are these people who were on board that plane? What do they look like when they wake up in the morning? What do they look like when they are normal?
The take-away sentiment from The Accident Did Not Take Place is a strong one. There are such obvious parallels with the infamous real-world mystery of Malaysian Airlines MH370 – did an accident even take place? Was it an accident? Who was on board that plane and why, surely someone out there can make sense of it all? The world has so much information about that flight, but none of it adds up to create rational insight – even five years after it happened.
Photography: The Other Richard
|Visual pleasure||A beautifully presented piece of theatre which made innovative use of live camera recordings and projections to greatly amplify the sense of interrogation that our would-be hero was eventually subjected to.||4|
|Auditory pleasure||Evocative musical soundscapes created throughout and particularly good use of higher-than-necessary-volume microphones which always seemed to add desperate urgency as the pace began to pick up towards the end.||4|
|Architecture & Theme||Very clever idea to use a new actor for each show, something that was explained at the start and which thus created intriguing thoughts as to how this show might come across with different actors using different methods.||4|
|Artistic delivery||At first, Powder Keg Ross didn’t look too happy as he was trying to understand what was going on, but then so were the audience. Performances from the three main YesYesNoNo actors were excellent, gently prodding and teasing Ross into giving them what they wanted.||4|
|Overall impact||A highly innovative and unusually constructed show all based on a foundation of disaster and tragedy. The repetitional section was quite annoying especially as it felt slightly pointless, but despite this the lasting impression is a very good one.||4|
|0||Detrimental – This aspect of the performance was so bad that it made the overall experience worse|
|1||Weak – This aspect of the performance was poor|
|2||Adequate – This aspect of the performance was perfectly acceptable, though nothing special|
|3||Good – This aspect of the performance was above average, it pleased in some way|
|4||Excellent – This aspect of the performance was much better than normal, it was impressive|
|5||Awe-inspiring – This aspect of the performance was exceptional, new boundaries were pushed.|