live review // Gobsquad: Western Society

live reviews Slate take an audio-descriptive, minimalist approach to reviewing an unusual show last month at Cambridge Junction.

live review // Gob Squad: Western Society
words // Hugh Mungous

A mess of furniture and equipment.

Sean Patten emerges. He is naked and seems confused.

Sharon Smith comes on from the other side. She is naked too. Neither of them seem to know where they are or why. They hold hands and face us the audience.

‘One Million Years BC’ is projected on the backdrop. A countdown to now:

Sarah Thom comes out. She and Sharon Smith share a moment. Bastian Trost comes on.

The four performers begin to dress themselves in golden hot pants and high heels they find strewn about the stage.

We pass from swampy prehistory into the sounds of early civilisation…

The four organise the space.

A harpsichord, the sounds of the steam age…

They move around the stage posing for an unseen photographer.

A telephone rings, the sounds of the first and second world wars, jazz, car horns, electric guitars, a dial up modem…

And then we arrive at now.

Welcome to Western Society.

If you didn’t see it, Western Society takes its inspiration from ‘one of the least viewed videos on the internet’, a four minute clip of a karaoke party ‘somewhere on the edge of the Western world’.

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At least three generations are present. We assume this is a family gathering. Cake is being eaten.

The company recreate the video on stage, inhabiting roles they call ‘Remote Control Man’, ‘Next to Remote’, ‘Girl with Phone’ and others.

“What are we doing here?” they ask, inviting one another to reflect on the roles they are exploring & the situation in general.

“On a scale of 1 to 10 how attractive do you think you are?” Sharon asks Bastian (he’s an 8) “On a scale of 1 to 10 how sexually available are you?” (he’s a 2).

And there’s karaoke.

Seven audience members are invited onto the stage. They wear headphones via which they receive instructions from the company. They are given a tour of the set-up and then they are invited to recreate the scene of the party.

The company use the situation to explore their own questions and desires. Sean Patten imagines he is walking into his 7-year-old daughter’s future flat. Bastian Trost stages a scene in which he gets an audience member to play the part of his late father and apologise for not understanding his son’s sexuality. With the help of two audience members Sharon Smith imagines an alternate personal history in which her step-father is her biological father.

Throughout the show the company quiz each other with questions ranging from pop cultural – “Beiber or Timberlake?” – to the impossible – “your wife or your daughter?” – “throw away or recycle?” – “national borders, good or bad?”

It’s a complex, multi-layered show. There’s a lot of stuff going on at any given point. But the dramaturgy feels effortless. It all unfolds with a sense of laid back spontaneity and wonder.

An enjoyable evening at the Cambridge Junction.

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Gob Squad have a long and interesting history. You can find out more here – Rags to Riches.

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