Theatre Critic and Journalist

Review: Internal, Mecure Point Hotel

Review: Internal, Mecure Point Hotel

Published on Culture Wars, 18.08.2009
This review won the Allen Wright Award, 2009

Internal is carnivorous. It preys upon its audience, feasting on our individual characters before spitting us out into the city half-eaten. Like the Venus fly trap, it draws us in of our own volition, before snapping shut and gorging itself, first chewing through the Achilles’ Heel then worming its way parasitically into your head to fester.

This is theatre that is not afraid to be nasty. Not Ravenhill-Kane-in-yer-face nasty, but wounding-scarring-real-world nasty. It manipulates; it betrays your trust; it seduces; it rejects.

To reveal too much about the mechanics of Internal as an event is to break it’s powers, but the piece perches in the gulf between speed-dating and group therapy. Five audience members come face to face with five performers. They treat you to an intimate experience with a stranger over a shared drink. Then Internal turns on you, exposing you to others and, more destructively, to yourself.

Essentially, Belgian performance collective Ontoerend Goed have created a hall of mirrors that reflects with a warped honesty. The image of yourself that comes back at you is rarely pleasant, but always recognisable. Your least favourite features are made prominent, but they remain yours.

Using the behavioural techniques of pick-up artists, made famous by Neil Strauss’ bestselling exposé The Game, Internal’s performers have an almost universal success rate in seduction. They extract everything they need without seeming to twist your arm. Everything we give, whether personal histories or more immediate actions, we give freely. We betray ourselves. We could do no other, but we only have ourselves to blame.

Crucially, however, the piece never masks its own manipulation. Even before entering, you witness the previous participants exit; on leaving, you see the next five. The walls are covered in letters written to audiences long-forgotten. Like The Smile Off Your Face before it, Internal hinges on being a conveyor-belt that churns through people. Without making this obvious, it would never hold up ethically.

For me, the piece’s ethics become blurry according to its motives. Does it put us through such sore and morally-suspect experiences, for our future benefit or for its own gratification, simply to prove that it can? Is it a kindness born of cruelty or a display of its own dominion? That Internal is both at once makes it all the more interesting.

It is a brilliantly conceived, superbly executed, brutal experience that I cannot honestly recommend highly enough or – paradoxically – at all.

Photograph: Ontroerend Goed

3 Comments

  1. I see you got it out… Good stuff! Part of me really wants to pull out of going today (need to stop reading reviews) but I will!

  2. Hi Matt, just wanted to say thanks for your incredible levels of output and for the rare quality of these reviews. I'm glad I'm not there this year, but I'm even more glad that you are. Kindly continue to bring it on. xx

  3. Thanks Chris, very kind and invigorating words. M

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