The Paper Birds’ new 45-minute show Mobile, which receives its world premiere at Live Theatre’s new Garden venue (a courtyard two doors up from the main building), arrives during a vulnerable time in the UK. Genuine fear surrounds our future in the run-up to the EU referendum, and there have been many conversations in theatre about the role of care, as we endure one of the most inimical British political regimes since the end of the 1970s. How might theatre fill this gap, contest the violence of the State or resist the financial divisions which impact on mental health, family unity and conceptions of identity? What role, if any, should care play in theatre in 2016?
Mobile, in its own exquisite way, provides some. As delicate and light as a feather, the show seems to drift and soar into outer space before gently landing on safe ground, which at its peak is a euphoric and spine-tingling experience. Reminiscent of Third Angel’s Cape Wrath, we are taken from the theatre to the Live Garden where we sit in deck chairs next to a dinky caravan. Cindy (Georgie Coles, who alternates with Kylie Walsh throughout the run) welcomes us, tries to guess our names and jobs, and leads us in. Inside: birch overhead cabinets and striped 70s upholstery. We’re offered a biscuit before our host launches into the central performance: a thoughtful enquiry into the British class system.
The caravan itself is imaginatively rigged with lighting and sound equipment that all seems to operate autonomously. The kettle flashes blue and a man starts speaking about his love of tattoos and dogs. The microwave pings on and a woman talks about being in the top 6% income bracket, yet used to shoplift with her mother when she was a child. As Coles opens each cupboard door, explores every nook and cranny, the caravan transforms into a living archive, which shelters all the random ornaments, stories and collectables that store tiny shards of our identity and relationships.
Mobile’s conclusions and reflections are a touch on the tame side and stem from the broad ethical perils of judging each other, but they also summon many concrete feelings shared by those who traverse British class divisions based on their wealth, occupation, geographical location and cultural tastes. It is at its strongest when attempting to obliterate these divisions, playing recorded interviews with people from across the UK who generously discuss their childhoods and families, and taking us into space to look down on Earth and reveal the lunacy of essentially all types of border.
It may not necessarily tell us anything startlingly new about class relations in Britain, but Mobile gorgeously imagines a society in which we begin to let go of the partitions which govern our sense of worth and our position in foul, artificial, hierarchical orders. Nothing is fixed here, and getting lost among the stories, the voices and the objects is a source of great joy.
Mobile is on until 26th June 2016. Click here for more information.