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Mountaineering (Roundhouse) - 'a water bath of introspection'

Non zero one's latest show is a disappointing demonstration of blunt metaphors

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Audience members tackle Mountaineering through headphones
© Francis Loney

Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family - and so on. Choose your future.

But what if life chooses you? Think about it: did you really decide to become the person you are today, or were you shaped by a billion incidentals outside of your control? That chance encounter with your now best mate, say, or that time you got fired, missed your tube and didn't meet John Hannah until much later in the film...

Non zero one's latest headphone piece is a demonstration of soft determinism in action. It looks at agency and its limits through a series of interactive exercises: thinking back ten years to trace the line between two selves or picking a flavour of crisps and living with the unforeseen consequences.

In between, on video, talking heads take us through their own big life-changers - some conscious choices, some not: Pat, a widow, moved to Portugal after a chance flood at home - an act of God, they call it; Ivan, formerly of non zero one, was torn between making experimental theatre and pursuing a career in comedy. That we should all have such #middleclassproblems...

It's a major issue: Mountaineering is completely blind to its own privilege. It never stops to remember those people that don't have the same available options, people with childhood dreams that life won't even let them attempt. Try telling a stay-at-home carer that their life isn't entirely of their own choosing. Watch them laugh in your face.

'It's terribly gentle too: all hand-holding with nothing much at stake'

At the same time, the argument never builds beyond itself to consider the bigger picture. What are the consequences of seven billion headless chickens on a global level? Where does that leave history? What does it mean for the future?

Instead, non zero one zoom in on the individual, on you - and it's the easiest choice going. What were your choices? How has your life played out? Mountaineering is basically an ego massage: a water bath of introspection. It plays out to a fug of nostalgia and cute videos of cute schoolkids laying out their cute pipe dreams. (Toby wants to be a snorkeler or an artist. Bless.) It's terribly gentle too: all hand-holding with nothing much at stake.

The central metaphor is a motorway: a long drive somewhere, with the radio on. (Every song choice relates.) Filmed from the dashboard, it's hypnotic and dreamy, blurring into double-vision as if parallel worlds co-existed. Life, according to non zero one, is a journey: you have to stick to the road to get where you're going, but the route itself dictates the road.

The thing is, if you need telling that life doesn't always work out as you wanted, you haven't really lived. Mountaineering isn't going to change that.