Theatre Critic and Journalist

Review: Gobo. Digital Glossary, ICA Theatre

Review: Gobo. Digital Glossary, ICA Theatre

Published on Culture Wars, 24.01.2011

Rehearsal room philosophizing can be tricky. With the shared language and history of a process, particularly with devised work, it’s easy for a company to leave their audience utterly perplexed by slippery abstract concepts. Gobo is such an idea and, after an hour of watching Akhe’s odd elucidation of it, I’m none the wiser as to what it might mean to assert, as they finally do, “Everything is Gobo.”

Nonetheless, there’s a great deal of pleasure in the bafflement concocted by these two clowns as they conduct a series of bizarre experiments. Just as Stuart Sherman does with language, Akhe undermine the accepted order of things. Using a selection of Rube-Goldberg devices, they jumble the world’s relationships – of association, causality and purpose – like a lotto-machine, leaving the impression that you’re watching another of Alivin Platinga’s infinite possible worlds. After a while, there’s no questioning the wisdom of a vacuum-cum-shredder that sucks up, chews up and spits paper skywards. Worryingly, you wonder whether it might even make sense.

The pair seem like two rogue toymakers in an underground layer. Pointing cameras at each other like guns, it’s as if they’re broadcasting demands the outside world. That each routine is framed in relation to heroism, a position necessarily outside the norm, suggests they are holding the world hostage by opting out. It’s pointed, for example, that having impaled a book on a bed of nails, they saw through its pages. Why, they demand, must we make a ruler of rationality? Everything is up for grabs. Nothing need be as we suppose and accept. Everything is also that which it is not. Everything, in other words, is Gobo.

Utterly bizarre, then, and almost entirely mystifying, but also strangely compelling and, perhaps even, oddly necessary, Akhe’s piece makes possibilities seem possible.

Photograph: AKHE Engineering Theatre

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