Reviews OWE & Fringe Published 12 June 2017

Review: Nothing is Coming, The Pixels are Huge at New Diorama Theatre

8 Jun 2017

Boxed in: Francesca Peschier reviews Theatre 42’s “frightening vision of the future” at Incoming Festival 2017.

Francesca Peschier
Nothing is Coming, the Pixels are Huge.

Nothing is Coming, The Pixels are Huge.

‘Little boxes made of ticky tacky,
There’s a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,
Little boxes on the hillside,
Little boxes all the same.’ (Malvina Reynolds 1962)

150 of them. 150 cardboard boxes of various sizes is what it took for Nothing is Coming, The Pixels are Huge to deservedly win Best Design at the National Student Drama Festival. Stacked and re-stacked with some clever lighting, these boxes form a dystopian city where one tower block is interchangeable with another and you can buy a new eye colour as easily as ordering Deliveroo. Later these boxes become the pixels of a virtual reality that serves the nostalgia of this future city’s citizens, uploaded into poor replicas of their childhood homes. Finally, they are used to quantify the important things, everyone you’ve ever loved, every time you tried, how many bad cups of tea you politely drank.

Theatre 42 have set a tricky balance for themselves in trying to create a Ridley Scott style mythic landscape through canon movement and repeated elegiac statements rather than a coherent narrative. Occasionally this results in some student- drama classics such as getting-louder-until-everyone-is-screaming, and my personal favourite, walking-with-contemporary-dance-face. This is avoided entirely in the first third – the world building portion of the play – through variation in delivery, especially by Liz Duggan who delivers recurring text each time with fresh urgency. Anna West also manages to hint at a character that lurks behind the collective speech, appearing wide eyed and disturbed when others repeat her lines as if they were taking and re-appropriating her story. Her magnetic performance grounds the audience in the human experience that this extreme future of artificial trees seems to have become totally detached from.

Everything in Theatre 42’s frightening vision of the future is commodified and quantifiable. There are some beautiful, clever ideas and stage pictures here that stretch the dynamics of the studio space containing them but still needs some refinement. A clever motif of varying the size of the boxes depending on what they contain (a big one for every time you laughed, a tiny one for the minutes you felt pure joy) is not consistently carried through with boxes often seemingly being selected at random. There needs to be a little more scrutiny and attention to detail in this production for it to truly deliver huge pixels in 300dpi high resolution.

When a company has the kernels of such a sophisticated and polished bit of theatre it is easy to nit-pick and it is to Theatre 42’s huge credit that this is the company’s straight-out-of-university production. Not only have they pulled off better performative scenography that I have seen in most of the West End (I’m blaming Les Mis for 20+ years of over-employed revolves) but they have something original and critical to say. It shows what can be done on small budgets when design forms an integral part of a show’s development rather than a last minute ‘we need a chair don’t we?’ attitude. If Theatre 42 can hone the precision they employ in their lighting to the rest of the production, then I think they will be unboxing exciting ideas for a long time to come.

For more information on Theatre 42, click here

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Francesca Peschier

Dr Francesca Peschier is a dramaturg, lecturer, writer and ex-designer based in the New Works department at the Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse. When not writing about or watching theatre she concerns herself with back-combing her hair to Dolly Parton heights and trying to create passable aerial hoop routines to goth rock classics.

Review: Nothing is Coming, The Pixels are Huge at New Diorama Theatre Show Info


Written by Theatre 42

Cast includes David Callanan, Elizabeth Duggan, Beatrice Sutton, Jack Madley, Anna West, Louise Cross,

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