This is a review of a play that we went to see and was submitted as part of an assignment in my first year at Edge Hill University.
Negative Space is a stage production from the Reckless Sleepers, a UK/Belgium based theatre group. The Reckless Sleepers have a philosophy about their work in which they embrace mistakes and accidents as part of the performance in the hope that it will add to the piece or help describe it in a way not thought of before.
This latest production is something of an oddity. For a start, there’s no dialogue at all, the whole thing is pure physical theatre. It takes place on a stage where, it’s fair to say, the real star of the show is a plasterboard cube in (and through) which the actors perform. The performance begins with a single actor stood alone in the cube. Not long after, another actor drops in from over the top of the wall and pretty soon there are actors everywhere, pulling and pushing at each other, leaving through holes in the floor or using ladders to climb out of the cube. The whole thing was a little confusing, but I think it was meant to be some kind of love story.
Things started to become a little more interesting when one of the actors came crashing through one of the plasterboard walls and onto the stage. From that point on, the whole performance became an orgy of destruction, slapstick and comedy violence. From a fairly underwhelming start, the performance suddenly found some life. Unfortunately, once you get over the initial surprise and delight of them smashing up the set, it loses its ability to hold the audience.
I couldn’t help but get the feeling that Reckless Sleepers were trying too hard to make art for art’s’ sake. The performance just didn’t seem to have any direction and if there was supposed to be a plot, I couldn’t figure one out. Overall I was left with the feeling that, yes, watching a group of people smash up a plasterboard room is quite cathartic, for a little bit at least, but ultimately I was expecting a little more substance with my style.
If you like your theatre to feel avant-garde while not really innovating at all, then perhaps Negative Space will be the show for you, but if you’d prefer something with a lot less pretension and a lot more plot, then I think you would be disappointed with this one. It’s an interesting idea in theory, but in practice it turns out to be the equivalent of paying good money to watch plasterers work. Now if they’d all been dressed as plasterers and the pseudo love story unfolded from that, it might have been a little more interesting. As it stands right now though, Negative Space was disappointing, underwhelming and ultimately as flimsy as the plasterboard walls themselves.