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If I ruled the World
Published on Wednesday, 09 May 2012

4 stars

The Nightingale (venue website)
5-6, 12-13, 19-20 May, 12:45pm-1:30pm, 2:45pm-3:30pm, 4:45pm-5:30pm
Reviewed by Richard Stamp

 Suitable for age 15+ only.
 World Premiere.

“Theatre can happen anywhere”, proclaims the front cover of the Nightingale’s programme… and this elegant half-hour piece, pre-recorded and performed through headphones, happens across the road at Brighton Station.  A single actress is waiting for us on the railway concourse, and as we follow the directions played into our ears, we share her thoughts and discover some insights of our own.

There’s nothing especially high-tech or innovative to all this – but it’s planned to perfection, and the technology supporting it could barely be simpler to use.  Hang an MP3 player round your neck, watch the station clock count down to the hour, and press the play button as the seconds tick to zero.  It’s an inspired way of getting everyone in sync, and the tick-tock build-up holds a special kind of thrill: glancing conspiratorially around the concourse, I tried to spot the people with earphones in, the ones who’d be sharing the experience that day.

The necessarily-simple plot is sprinkled with too much sugar for my taste, but it’s good to see that they’ve stayed away from the more obvious clichés – there are no tear-stained reunions on the platforms here.  With the exception of a few select audience members who have the chance to nudge things along, we’re simply spectators on an everyday love story, and there’s an electric feel of licensed voyeurism as we listen in to a recorded monologue which only we can hear.

Interspersed with the storyline, though, there’s a much more personal narrative – which invites us to experiment with the way we perceive the station, and interact with the people around us.  I failed in the first challenge, to catch a stranger’s eye, which was telling enough in itself; later instructions had me (quite harmlessly) mimic a passenger’s movements, and generally become more aware of all those who were sharing the station concourse with me.  It’s a theme which runs through the storyline, as well, with our narrator pointing out that she spends every morning with her fellow travellers… yet barely speaks to them at all.

If you choose to play along, you’ll end up doing something you wouldn’t normally do in a station – though you almost certainly have done it in public before.  It’s a beautiful ending, which cleverly poses this work’s big question; a question that’s almost unanswerable, but worth asking all the same.  We spend all our life rushing to make connecting trains.  So why are we so slow to connect with each other?

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These are archived reviews of shows from Brighton 2012.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.