Theatre Critic and Journalist

Review: The Various Lives of Infinite Nullity, Summerhall

Review: The Various Lives of Infinite Nullity, Summerhall

Clout Theatre is searching for hell. ‘What colour is it? What sound does it make?’ their programme asks and in this clownish slideshow, they propose some possibilities. It’s head stained blood-red, they say, and brains that explode like snare traps. It’s seizures and sliced throats and teacups that jangle like fire alarms. As they remind us, Aldous Huxley one wondered whether “maybe this world is another planet’s hell.”

Maybe so, but I’d argue that leaves us not in hell, but veering in on the disquiet captured by Fernando Pessoa; the nagging neuroses that linger on your left shoulder. Clout’s snapshots, really, are existential worries, the irks and quirks of everyday life: the slurps and sniffs of bodies nearby; the clammy horror of public speaking; the sense that, at any moment, everything could collapse – or worse, stop dead and fade to black.

It’s a familiar theme, the old existential angst; a particular favourite for emerging artists, Lecoqians in particular (must be something in the Paris air), but nonetheless Clout pull it off inventively. It’s a particular pleasure to see their white-faced clowns clad in neon and given a nasty, smirking edge – rather than the gooey, goofy vacancy you usually see.

The problem is that their images remain just that: images. Too few translate into a visceral experience and spread the gnawing sensation they aim to convey into the stalls. In other words, Clout theatre describe a feeling without magicing it into existence. To do that, one needs still less literalism, to ramp up the inexplicable horror and detach from anything remotely rational. Think BlackWhiteSky and their parades of impossible nightmares.

Still it’s a perky, peppery short (40 minutes) with strong performances and some visual flair. Most promisingly of all, after last year’s tumbling, gurning headrush of a goon show How A Man Crumbled, it suggests a company interrogating their aesthetic and moving towards something increasingly robust.

 

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