Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry, Wednesday 19th February, 2014
Two people with microphones stand in front of a monitor. They are a little stupefied from drink. They read what appears on the monitor – words that are projected on the large screen behind them for our benefit. On the surface, it looks like any late night karaoke ‘performance’ but instead of singing, these two are speaking lines in a monotonous fashion, without investment, without authenticity – just as karaoke performers might perform popular songs. They are going through the motions – without actually moving much at all.
That’s it in a nutshell but it’s what they read out that gives Sleepwalk Collective’s new show its humour and its insights into the human condition. With its accompaniment of hypnotic trance music, the piece offers up glimpses of meaning. The overall tone is bleak with the occasional chuckle-inducing moment and poetic turn of phrase.
For me it’s about conformity, going along with the sometimes unspoken ‘rules’ of society. We are compliant slaves to machines every day. We remove the unexpected item in the bagging area, we heed the disembodied voice that tells us to stand back from the platform edge.
The words on the screen take on a godlike demeanour, with the couple as Adam and Eve reborn. The words entrap them into their own downfall. It begins with the surrender of their free will to the instructions they read on the monitor.
An hour of this feels just about right. Any longer and it would need to do more, go somewhere. Any shorter and it wouldn’t build up its sustained atmosphere of joyless existence where even the parameters of a romantic liaison are defined by ‘rules’.
I don’t know if the spelling mistakes that appeared on screen are intentionally jarring (‘breath’ for ‘breathe’ and ‘loose’ for ‘lose’, for example) or I’m just nit-picking.
Performers/creators iara Solano Arana and Sammy Metcalfe keep their faces deadpan and their gestures almost somnambulant, suggesting that if we follow the script that is imposed upon us, we are merely sleepwalking through life. We are then all members of the Sleepwalk Collective!