Theatre Review: The Time Out @ Barbican

non zero one’s 2011 show, which appeared at the Latitude Festival, Edinburgh’s Forest Fringe and Tate Britain, takes the notion of audience participation to new heights. As we take our seats in a changing room with 11 other ‘spectators’ and don swimming hats and goggles, we learn from the coach that we are a water polo team with just 9 minutes and 39 seconds separating us from the final in which we are about to play!

A voice on our headphones then explains that over the next hour (for time stands still every time the coach stops speaking) we 12 strangers will need to build up trust so that we can work together as a team to win. There follows a series of games and exercises geared towards establishing rapport, and getting to know the other members’ strengths and weaknesses. These include pairs supporting each other as they lean backwards, and people answering (hardly probing) questions in the dark to maintain anonymity.

The trouble is that any such theatrical experience must cater for a wide range of individuals and so to remain (quite understandably) respectable, can never be truly edgy. We are constantly told that together we have built up relationships that could never have been established elsewhere in one brief hour, but this is not necessarily enough. Were a member of the public suddenly to burst into Hamlet’s soliloquy in the High Street, we might be impressed, but as soon as we enter an auditorium we expect to see a polished production of the whole play. In the same way, when we go into this type of theatre the stakes are automatically raised so that we want to be taken to places unknown, not just slightly out of our comfort zone.

the time out is still a must for die-hard fans of interactive theatre, and for those seeking a truly novel experience, but the transformation that the team undergoes may not always be that great and, we suspect, will depend upon the 12 particular audience members at the time.

Until 4 November, meeting in the Barbican Pit foyer, with start times of 14.00, 17.00, 19.15, 19.45 and 21.00. Tickets (£12): 020 7638 8891 or from the Barbican website.

Photo: Coach Ken (Iván González) and the participants, © John Hunter.

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