All writers try and generate a response in their audience but some are more ambitious than others. 0.0008 is a new piece of performance art in which writer/performer Sonia Hughes asks her audience to consider their status in an expanding universe.
The audience is directly involved in the performance. Seated under lightbulbs representing the stars and listening to recorded anecdotes from members of the Manchester Astronomy Society. Director Sarah Frankcom allows the stage to spill into the audience so that Hughes can walk through and around us and engage us in one-on-one discussions. The latter technique is not always successful. Hughes chats with a friend whose answers to questions on topics such as the best or worse thing she has done may or may not be illuminating but it is hard to judge, as the replies are often inaudible.
Frankcom makes some daring choices in the use of facilities. Opening the large windows to use the natural summer evening light. A powerful moment involves Hughes constructing an object in darkness to give us a shock when we see what she has assembled.
There is a loose structure to the piece. It opens and closes with Hughes delivering an anecdote from one of her good and bad days. Inbetween she gives us statistics on, and invites us to share her bewildered appreciation of, the size of the universe. Although interesting this does not always achieve in the audience the sense of wonder or awed humility needed for the concept to really work. At times you feel that you’re listening to someone describe a particularly interesting hobby.
More successfully Hughes involves us in her exploration of memory. She invites us to try and remember features of friends from long ago and to consider how we will be remembered. In one of the more moving sequences Hughes points out that, as significant, how we will remember those we care about, particularly if we fear that they might not fulfil their potential and leave us with poor impressions.
Hughes is not naive and is aware that achievements can be good as well as bad. Part of the show outlines the life and achievements of the man who invented the AK 47 assault rifle.
0.0008 is not wholly successful. At times it puzzles rather than engages the audience. It remains, however, a thought-provoking, if not completely involving, experience.
- Dave Cunningham