[2012010] Theatergroep WAK – LevelLess

[2012010] Theatergroep WAK – LevelLess [FringeTIX]

Theatergroep WAK @ The Big Brown Thing In The Garden

7:30pm, Sat 18 Feb 2012

Theatergroep WAK’s breakout effort last year, Nothing Is Really Difficult, left me with a real love/hate feeling… but I’ve been thinking that this year is The Year of Second Chances, and the Dutch lads deserve another go at least.

The installation for LevelLess is certainly big and imposing up close, but nestled in its location atop the hill, it’s almost hidden. There’s no madcap spruiking this time, just a quiet girl in the ticket booth who tells me to line up just behind her.

Eventually we’re permitted entry into the wooden structure, and it’s very curious inside: the stepped seats are reminiscent of last year’s construction, but the “nose” of the structure is actually a smooth, sloped floor. With the seating area maybe two-thirds full, the door shuts behind us, and the room plunges to darkness; blue fluoro lights lining the vertical supports of the nose light up, and there’s the tangible feeling that we’re staring into the dark over an incalculable distance. It’s quite humbling: one of those “we are tiny and insignificant” moments.

There’s a cold, dispassionate voice-over: it seems to hint that we’re inside the Large Hadron Collider. Suddenly we hear the sound of sliding; three men, clad in white hazmat suits, slide backwards from the top of the nose into our view. With their backs to us, they start (semi-moon-)walking up the slope; it’s a convincing effect, watching them walk into the distance.

The lights go out again; a bright blue light appears “in the distance”, and slowly comes towards us, blinding. It drifts away again, and we see three red dots on the floor, far away; blue dots start orbiting the red, spinning slowly at first but increasing in speed as they come towards us. The dots are controlled by the men: red by lasers attached to their belts, blue by handheld devices. It’s hypnotic to watch, and I begin to imagine that we’re watching atoms and their electrons interact.

But then a sudden change – the lights come on, and the men now appear to be mechanics. There’s a few elements of slapstick in their interactions as they smack each other in the face with a panel door and tumble through trapdoors; some ludicrous beards and a guitar come from nowhere for no discernible reason. More blue light, a big pink thing oozing towards us from The Distance, and then a curtain in the nose of the structure blows out: sunlight streams in, spreading down the length of the structure and surrounding everyone in a glorious golden halo.

And the men re-appear, and take a bow. The show is over.

Right. So… ummmmm.

LevelLess didn’t gel for me… at all. Where Nothing Is Really Difficult is very much a tale of two halves, LevelLess felt like a collection of fragments, only some of which had a tangible connection to others. Their only commonality was that they all occurred within the structure… and the structure is very much the star of the show.

Without wanting to quibble over labels, LevelLess doesn’t feel like a theatre piece; it’s an installation performance. And whilst that installation allowed many neat snippets to be performed within it, it felt like there was too much cruft for me to go away a happy camper. And that makes me a bit sad, really, because the opening walk, and the atom chase, and the rolling tubes that sound like a million footsteps, and the halos… they are all magical moments. The other thirty minutes, though, felt pointless and confusing.

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