Monday, 15 October 2012

Ten Out Of Ten - review

Written by: Caroline (@caroveraclare

Ovalhouse, London

Before entering Ovalhouse Downstairs, we are asked to wear sticky labels bearing our names. It’s an early sign that we will not be sitting anonymously in the dark: telling a performer your name gives them the power to single you out and this makes the audience more vulnerable - but Toot Collective promise ‘to include you in their world without scaring you to bits or putting you on the spot (not too much anyway…).’

In the theatre the seats are distanced from each other, giving you the kind of enforced personal space that stirs memories of so many school exams. Stuart Barter, Clare Dunn and Terry O’Donovan are on hand to welcome us onto the ‘course’: we will be studying success and failure, from Brownie badges to speed dating via the absurdity of interview questions and the fierce terror of the driving test. There are instructions to follow and several tests to complete – I won’t spoil surprises here but it’s amazing how a task, a time limit, a ticking clock and a ‘supervisor’ pacing the rows of seats recalls the quiet panic of the exam hall. This being press night, a gentlemen sitting towards the front has a pen and paper ready in his lap – performers face success and failure all the time, and every show is a test of its own.

Barter, Dunn and O’Donovan move fluently between characters and situations, text and movement. As our ‘course leaders’ there are lovely touches establishing a workplace hierarchy, and all three bring great physical and facial expressiveness to the clean, effective choreography. The show is a reminder of the infinite potential of a black box theatre and a piece of chalk. Live music and clever sound effects are skillfully employed, and the script is full of details that ring true.

The overwhelming triumph of childhood victory contrasts with the complexities of adulthood, when success in one area of life can sit alongside failure in another. With this subject matter I almost expected something heavy and cathartic, an attempt to make the audience confront their own failures; but this is not that show, and Toot do a brilliant job of evoking sadness and disappointment without dragging us down. The performance surrounds and involves us, but doesn’t force intimacy or involvement – the spotlight may fall on you, but it will move on. This lightness of touch achieves great things, with people happier to reveal things about themselves than they would be if pushed – and by the time we had completed our ‘course’, the mood in the room was elated.

I had never been to Ovalhouse before, but will certainly be back - as an Ovalhouse Commission, Ten Out of Ten is an example of the theatre's commitment to supporting new work and is well worth the trip to SE11.

This production runs until 27 October 2012. 
@Ovalhouse @TenOutOfTenShow #TOOT

Follow us on Twitter / Like us on Facebook

No comments: