Youarenowhere (Shoreditch Town Hall)
Andrew Schneider's dazzling piece runs as part of LIFT until 18 June
Take another look at that title. Is it three words squished together or four? Nowhere or now here? Or is it, in fact, both at once. Andrew Schneider's dazzling performance piece – part performance lecture, part mime, part son et lumière – makes clear that the two are one and the same.
Schneider appears on a white stage. Literally appears. A blink of a blackout and – blip – there he is: bare-chested, chalky-faced, mic'd up to the max. He's breathing heavily, as if spat out of a wormhole, only, seconds later, his breath jumps out of his body. The sound of panting continues, but his chest stops heaving.
A breakneck physics lecture, Youarenowhere scrabbles at the nature of time and space itself. Schneider spouts a babble of Einsteinian relativity, quantum mechanics and time theory to disrupt any sense of singularity and continuum. What if only the present exists, if past and future were nothing but illusions? Or what if every present exists simultaneously, like the frames of a film cut up and spread out on a surface? But Schneider doesn't just speak these things aloud. He makes them so.
The stage is a theoretical space – just like a blackboard or a time-space axis – and, using an array of technical effects and stage trickery, Schneider disrupts our sense of time and space. Theatre is a here and now art-form, but Schneider obliterates any sense of here and now. His sentences stop short at blackouts. His voice detaches from his body, booming from above or distorting into duplicate. Strobes split his movements into individual moments, and he zaps from one side of the stage to another. Imagine Marcel Marceau giving a Nobel lecture – only glitching in and out of time, skipping like a CD, disintegrating at the edges, doubling back on himself.
This is the stage as a hall of mirrors – an actual echo chamber, even a Large Hadron Collider. Youarenowhere gathers such speed that it seems to split itself in two – like Superman whizzing round the world the wrong way or Marty McFly sneaking past himself at school. With an astonishing coup de théâtre – a rug-pull so sudden and surprising it makes the audience gasp in sync – Schneider creates a whole new universe out of nothing. That he pulls the same trick twice is extraordinary.
Fitting too, for a piece so entranced by doubles and uncertainty. Yet this isn't just a demonstration of physics. It's philosophy, politics and aesthetics as well: a self-portrait that isn't sure there's any such thing as the self; a piece that pushes against individualism to argue for universalism; that lets us step into someone else's shoes and see ourselves from the outside. Schneider catches all the oddity of self-consciousness – the cognitive dissonance of acting and observing, watching and being watched.
To call it a headfuck would do it a disservice. It is a rollercoaster, utterly theatrical and utterly thrilling; a show that lets your brain race at twice its resting rate and brings the most intangible paradoxes within touching distance. Dazzling.
Youarenowhere runs at the Shoreditch Theatre as part of LIFT until 18 June.