Theatre Critic and Journalist

Review: The Artificial Nature Project, Platform Theatre

Review: The Artificial Nature Project, Platform Theatre

Silver confetti rains down at the front of the stage, glinting in the light as it falls. The pieces roll and tumble on the way down. Some clump together and plummet. Some dance down to earth. Behind them is blackness. They look like fireflies. Or the embers at the start of those old Odeon adverts. Or phosphorescence. Or bacteria. Or bloodcells. They move in and out of the light: sometimes a strip of particles, appearing then disappearing like quarks, sometimes an entire sheet of them, a makeshift glittering curtain at the front of the stage.

Then they stop.

Your eyes adjust and see – what? – people crouched on the floor, face-down in piles of this stuff. Six of them, three dressed head-to-toe in grey, three more in black. They look like space ninjas. Especially when uplit by fluorescents around the edge of the stage.

Gradually, that square space fills with this confetti. It pumps in from a corner and the performers send it flying into the air, whooshing it upwards in a giant geyser. You think – how could you not – of The Crystal Maze. You think of Scrooge MacDuck, splashing about in his cash. Still the geyser roars on. The people disappear in the cloudburst.

Nature, perhaps, is in that chaos, all collisions and no control. Mette Ingvartsen’s piece has the same beauty as an electric storm. It’s awesome. Mesmeric, even. But because it’s so absolutely artificial, so manmade and illusory, it’s impressive. You marvel at it.

It’s ridiculous too, though. These six people, stupidly dressed, chucking confetti around in a theatre, while we watch. Watch what exactly? People playing. Dancing? Is this dance? They behave like a unit, intricately organised. Each one knows their place. They might be terrorists. Or scientists. Or crystal meth cookers. Maybe that’s the anonymity. But it just looks like such fun, swimming about it this stuff. And fuck me, you want to join in.

Eventually, after, what, half an hour, the floor is covered with a thick, even layer of the stuff. The light drops and silver metallic veneer turns to marshy, Martian green turns to a peaty bog turns to an oil slick. The light catches the edges. You swear you see the patterns of cities lit up at night and seen from the sky.

Then, in come the leafblowers. (Of course, they do.) And, lit red, that geyser becomes a volcano, spewing lava upwards and destroying the perfectly flat landscape. In the corner, a handful of the performers attempt to restart the cycle, scooping the confetti into a corner.

In truth, all this goes on way, way, way too long. A large part of the appeal is that YouTube viral quality, that edge of Britain’s Got Talent: ‘Never seen that before. Neat.’ The metaphor is too thin, be it about nature, man’s relatonship with natural resources or simply money (consider the eruption as the financial crash and the desperate attempt to restart), but while it shifts between them, none of these develop enough to fill the full 80 minutes. Eventually, we’re left with spectacle – and a spectacle we’ve grown used to at that.

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