In Neutrino, Unlimited Theatre has produced a highly original piece of work that takes a sideways look at perceived reality, coincidence, the pursuit of happiness and complex connections between the universe, people and things. A scientific lecture and slide show on neutrino theory runs parallel to the role-playing but at times is so cosmically mesmerising, it tends to eclipse the action.
Jon Spooner delivers Chris Thorpe's fake 'paper' with scintillating wit and a scientist's precision. This fascinating theory is a comedian's delight, covering an eclectic mix of subjects from the sub-conscious effect of the Carpenters' music to contracting souls and the 'Big Crunch'. It's about small and large-scale occurrences and their often unpredictable effects.
The interplay occurs between four individuals - two homosexual lovers and two complete strangers on a rail trip. All are battling a personal crisis at some level and make positive changes towards the end. The theme of interconnectedness links the lecture to the expressive, symbolic performances. Theories appear to deal with opposite states: for example, order versus chaos is represented by librarian Kate (Louisa Ashley), whose capacity for methodical thought is neutralised by the 'noise' of her depression. Evasiveness permeates the relationship between lesbians Helen (Liz Margree) and Jane (Clare Duffy). On the one hand, Helen wants her partner to be open about their sexuality but is also secretly harbouring fears and uncertainties about her past. The number exchange scene between the two highlights Helen's reluctance to reveal the truth.
It's also ironic that Stuart (Chris Thorpe), a struggling stand-up comedian, can communicate with an audience but avoids intimacy with his partner. Threaded through all of this are sub-elements of insanity and seclusion. The loud stereo sound contrasting with bursts of silence and frantic Rain Man-style number quotations and paper shredding, particularly highlight this.
The conversations between Kate and Stuart take centre stage. Kate's fascination with the systematic order of things complements Stuart's spontaneity, offering a different kind of yin-yang type friendship. In fact, the final 'Big Crunch' scene where Stuart actually calls his girlfriend makes a surprising but not wholly unexpected transition.
Awarded a Fringe First for innovation and outstanding work at Edinburgh last year, Neutrino is an intelligently crafted production that deserves re-visiting several times to fully appreciate its aesthetic accomplishments. Even though you're left feeling bombarded at times with a mass of information, the offbeat insights and warped humour will keep you fully tuned in.
P.S - to all those who've already been neutrinoed, the BEAR says hi!
- Emma Edgeley (reviewed at Stoke's Alsager Arts Centre)