Curious things can happen in the run up to Big Moments. Perhaps your brain feels alarmingly empty before you enter an exam room. Maybe you buzz with adrenaline prior to delivering a big speech. Or perhaps you become acutely aware that you have no idea what you're doing, nine minutes and 39 seconds before the final of a water polo match.
It's the latter scenario that sets the scene for immersive theatre company non zero one's latest production. Set in a small locker room, an audience of twelve becomes a water polo team, spurred on by a ferociously Scottish sports coach. But as the lights dim, a disembodied voice can be heard through headphones attached to individual swimming caps instructing audience members to engage in group bonding exercises.
From staring for a painfully long time into a complete stranger's eyes to confessing your strengths and weaknesses, the object is to get you thinking and acting as a team, so that you can go out and confront that Big Moment together.
But rather than focusing on the Big Moment itself, the time out explores the liminal state of the pre-climax; those slow, numbing moments before something crucial occurs. Uncomfortable exercises and awkward social interactions build up anticipation, and foreshadow something even more nerve-wracking to come. It helps that immersive theatre by its very nature keeps you on your toes – the uncertainty of forced involvement in performance adds to the atmosphere of pent-up anxiety.
That said, the time out isn’t entirely successful in re-creating that feeling of something Big just around the corner. As unexpected as the performance exercises are, they're a little too tame to contribute to the sense of an ordeal. And the group bonding aspect – fun as it was – felt a little conceptually hackneyed. We live in a culture of corporate team building days and group therapy; being forced to open up to relative strangers is nothing new.
Despite this, the time out can still boast an entertaining and off-beat hour of alternative theatre, and the clever integration of technology is certainly novel. An indication of the exciting future to come for this fledgling theatre company.
- by Stephanie Soh
Photo: Francis Loney