Kids are the perfect audience for absurdism. It comes naturally to them. Because kids are mad geniuses. They’re totally bonkers. I saw them in the audience for this show in which nothing happens. They are completely stupid visionary poets, with a wicked sense of humour.
While adults the world over are losing their heads, children seem to understand that life is just a potluck bag of often glorious frequently hilarious occasionally profound but ultimately meaningless nonsense.
Which is what this show is.
The Show In Which Hopefully Nothing Happens does everything that Waiting For Godot does, in half the time. It’s a play in which nothing happens, once.
And find me a play that wouldn’t benefit from a reduced running time.
Nigel is a security guard, whose one job is to stop anybody from coming on to the stage. Entrances, exits, players playing many parts – not allowed. “We like to keep the stage empty,” he tells us.
Despite a wild display of kung fu moves however, and some premier league level gum chewing, it turns out Nigel’s a big softie at heart.
It doesn’t take Riad, a ruffled and ruched thespian, long to win him over. And together they embark on an epic existential adventure in the space of a single hour.
I suspect when people think about existentialism they imagine long periods of tortured self-reflection. Hamlet’s partly to blame for this. It has a reputation for self-loathing, depression and melancholy.
But the existentialists weren’t as doom and gloom as everybody thinks they were. Jean Paul Sartre said he never felt a day of depression in his life. In fact, staring into the abyss and finding nothing there, was a liberating experience for him. Hashtag YOLO.
At one point in the play, Riad mourns the death of someone called the ‘next moment’. After a period of grieving he holds up a sign advertising for someone or something to fill the role that has been left vacant. ‘Wanted’, it reads, ‘next moment’.
The children on the front row try to help Riad, but they don’t know how. A few of them suggest that he should just make the next moment himself. You can make a moment up, they say. You can invent one. But Riad isn’t satisfied, deep down he wants his old ‘next moment’ back. The kids are confused by this. Then one of them shouts right in Riad’s face: “I don’t know what you mean!”
It’s great, because you can see the children in the audience thinking about what Riad is asking of them on different levels. Without realising it they are grappling with the abstract concepts of time, relativity, and meaning.
The show was originally developed by the Dutch company Theater Artemis, whose aim is to offer young people “challenging experiences that teach them to have confidence in the unknown.”
That’s exactly what it feels like when you leave the theatre. At one point, Nigel warns that us that there are a lot of happenings waiting outside. Some are big and some are small, but there’s loads of them, and they all want to get in.
So when the lights come up, and you walk out into the café, it feels as if you are stepping out into the unknown. There will be all sorts of happenings waiting for us to look at, and understand, and cope with. But the show has taught us that we can cope with them. We can cope with the endless possibility of life. And one way we can do that is through humour.
Because the show is so, so funny. I could watch Nigel stopping Riad from entering the stage for more than one hour. I could watch them for two. I could watch them do that sequence for the length of Waiting for Godot. They are great together.
The best thing about it is that it manages to meet young people at their level, without patronising, and challenges them with a complex set of enquiries whilst making them laugh. And like all the best work for young people it plays to the adults too. So bring your kids, or offer to babysit, and go.
The Show in Which Hopefully Nothing Happens is on at the Unicorn Theatre. More info here.