Reviews OWE & Fringe Published 30 September 2013

There Has Possibly Been An Incident

Soho Theatre ⋄ 24th September - 5th October 2013

Beneath the surface image.

Lulu Raczka

Picture the scene. You’re at home. News on in the background. Images of terror flash before you. The newsreader gives you the facts. You’re not really listening. There has Possibly Been an Incident turns this familiar scene on it’s head; if a photo is worth a thousand words, Chris Thorpe has traded the photo in for the words, giving us an intricate explanation of the context. Thorpe gives us the great complexity behind moments of heroism, when people have the lives of others thrust upon them, whether through choice or circumstance. A new regime begins with the brush of a jaw. A woman is silhouetted by an exploding plane. A man walks out in front of a line of tanks, shopping bags in hand.

Throughout this production, though there are ruthless, spoken descriptions, there is no attempt to physically realize these images on stage. The interwoven monologues are delivered, seated, into a microphone, by Yusra Warsama, Nigel Barrett and Gemma Brockis, all three with a script in hand. This pared back style eliminates any chance of the image taking place on stage; we must instead imagine it. Once the audience is tempted with a moment of visual satisfaction: a woman describes the habitual hand movement of a new political leader, she raises her hand to her face, mimicking it. Yet, after this moment of “acting out” her hand returns to her script and there is no attempt to create the balcony she stands on, or large crowd below it.

The lack of visual realization of the text does not mean the play lacks consideration for the images on stage, far from it; Signe Beckmann’s intelligent design seems built around the denial of visual stimulation. The off-white, waiting-room blinds, neatly closed, construct a sense of the unseen. However, this is off-set as the audience watch the room being set up at the beginning, and know that all that sits behind the blinds is empty stage.

The power the non-visual representation can be seen clearly through Barrett’s narrative, unraveling the moments before that legendary photo of the “Tank Man” halting the tanks entering Tiananmen Square. This monologue directly confronts the way visual evidence has skewed our understanding of historical events, as our own lack of knowledge on the events is confronted, for example, it was only while watching the show that I realized the man carried shopping bags. Within the monologue the fame of the photo is referenced, as he states his aim to remain nameless, as the future photos will be more powerful if he remains unidentified.

This acknowledgement harks back to a time in which we saw a photograph as objective truth, in which a photo was a powerful force. Thorpe pulls this idea apart throughout the show, by plunging beneath the surface image. The photo shows us an incredible moment of selflessness, but in the show, the onlookers are brought into focus, particularly painfully when it states the man walked towards the tanks, risked everything, because someone had to, and if he didn’t – who else would? He is in the shot, due to everyone out of it.

The dense, evocative text gives the audience a sense of power. Thorpe’s text is full of different ideas and messages, the audience is then allowed to take away from it what they wish. This may be true of every piece of art, but the way the ideas are presented in this production leaves the impetus upon the audience to create the visuals. This is a piece which rewards multiple viewings, as the rich text will reveal different ideas and images on each occasion.

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Lulu Raczka

Lulu is a theatre-maker, who has just graduated from Warwick University with a degree in English and Comparative Literature. She has just moved back to London and is co-running Barrel Organ Theatre.

There Has Possibly Been An Incident Show Info


Directed by Chris Thorpe

Cast includes Yusra Warsama, Gemma Brockis, Nigel Barrett

Link http://sohotheatre.com/

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