Reviews PerformanceReviews Published 27 February 2012

What I Heard About The World

Soho Theatre ⋄ 22nd February- 3rd March 2012

Mapping and anecdotes.

Diana Damian Martin

What I Heard About the World is a show that challenges the way we relate to all things global. Third Angel have created a landscape of stories; it’s a living, curated museum in which anecdotes are mixed with fiction in order to examine our relationship with place in the mediated digital society we inhabit.

There’s a self-referential and playful immediacy to this exercise in mapping, as company members Jorge Andrade, Chris Thorpe and Alexander Kelly examine how liveness can make memory visible. The production examines the way we relate to both place and society by engaging in a constant interplay between re-enactment, replication and construction. We create narrative maps of the stories we hear, the ones we make up and the ones we carry with us.

The piece plays with the motif of urban myth, but – surprisingly – most of these stories are true: so how do they affect our understanding of the world? The most endearing element of Third Angel’s production is its tacit manipulation and deliberate lack of precision. These conceal a confrontational honesty; it’s a pastiche that posits our inherent failure to grasp the reality of a place whilst acknowledging a problematic duality: that stories can bring us closer to a particular place whilst, at the same time, distancing us from the source.

The most playful aspect of What I Heard About the World rests in the way the three deliver their map of the world; Thorpe explains that the music he’ll be playing is just emotional pastiche, but the seriousness with which he approaches the sound-tracking of certain moments allows the liveness of the event to be placed under scrutiny.

What I Heard… is as much a show about our relationship with the world as it is about a failure of authenticity. This notion of failure is essential to the show’s comedic tone but also to its more serious provocations. From Kelly’s plan to save the world from drowning by forcing every citizen to drink a litre of salt water to the re-enactment of an obscure but significant genocide, this failure to fully represent their subject is also a wink to Brecht’s practice, masked in a double entendre: through the use of humour, we are able to laugh away distance whilst at the same time acknowledging the existence of vastness that we can never entirely grasp.

If the production as a whole has an inherent vagueness, it’s partly to do with the way it refuses closure; yet this is where the piece is at its weakest, at times it  skims too quickly over the nuances of its own narratives and their implications, whilst overlooking the inherent contradictions of the performers’ endeavours. That being said,  What I Heard… is, at its core, a research-based show, and this shows in the immediacy of its content: take for example, those Russian Lego and Kinder Surprise figurines protesting in Siberia and their inherent politicization and mythologization.

What I Heard… is a potent, playful and evocative piece of theatre that makes the audience think about the  nature of their relationship to the world. A passion for storytelling runs alongside a sense of toying with theatrical conventions, resulting in a work that is both heartfelt and endearing.


Diana Damian Martin

Diana Damian Martin is a London-based performance critic, curator and theorist. She writes about theatre and performance for a range of publications including Divadlo CZ, Scenes and Teatro e Critica. She was Managing Editor of Royal Holloway's first practice based research publication and Guest Editor for postgraduate journal Platform between 2012-2015. She is co-founder of Writingshop, a long term collaborative project with three European critics examining the processes and politics of contemporary critical practice, and a member of practice-based research collective Generative Constraints. She is completing her doctoral study 'Criticism as a Political Event: theorising a practice of contemporary performance criticism' at Royal Holloway, University of London and is a Lecturer in Performance Arts at Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.

What I Heard About The World Show Info

Produced by Third Angel/mala voadora

Cast includes Christ Thorpe, Alexander Kelly, Jorge Andrade.




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