Jamie Wood is a performer to fall in love with. He radiates warmth as he moves among an audience, his gentleness expanding outwards to fill the room. As a presence on stage, he’s playful yet serious; a clowning figure who pokes fun as an act hope rather than one of ridicule.
O No! is this loveable theatre-maker’s show about love: the much-maligned romance between John Lennon and Yoko Ono, the ups and downs of Wood’s parents’ long marriage, and his own relationship with partner (and director) Wendy Hubbard. It’s also about art and about the connections between the two – both hard yet joyful, often going hand in hand.
The show’s starting point is Grapefruit, Yoko Ono’s brilliantly bizarre book of instructions for art events. Via recordings, we hear Wood’s attempts to recreate these artworks, peppered with the occasional weary interjection from Hubbard when he tries to smack his head against the wall or paint using his own blood. Ono’s instructions play a part in the live performance, too, as Wood peels open the book with the teasing words “let’s do some art”. In “Cut”, the audience are invited to slice off scraps of the performer’s outfit; for the aptly named “Bag”, two people have to clamber into a bag and take off all their clothes.
And audience members actually do it. Audience interaction on the Fringe is so often about embarrassment, about being made the butt of the joke, but Wood transforms it into a gift. One moment, we’re bouncing an orange ball through the air, conspiring in an act of imagination to make it into the sun. In another, we become a raggedy avant-garde orchestra, joining together in an almighty racket. We’re even invited to touch each other in the dark, giggling as we reach out to neighbours’ hands, heads and beards.
If it sounds silly, it is. That’s the beauty of it. But there’s more to Wood’s show than simple fooling around. In between the games and the gags, the show is a tender look at love and its possibilities, both on the small scale and the large. It’s about the love between two people, but also the sort of love that can bring together disparate communities. O No! is audacious in its joy, a sunburst of unironic optimism breaking through cynical grey skies. Yet somehow it smacks less of naivety than of determinedly hopeful, seriously silly resistance.