Edinburgh Fringe 2009
Ontroerend Goed & Richard Jordan Productions Ltd
Festival: Edinburgh Fringe
Internal is a boundary blurring game of give and take – or cat and mouse – between actor and audience. Exploiting the mediums of group therapy and speed-dating it questions whether one can make a meaningful connection with a stranger in 25 minutes – and in so doing questions what is in fact real in any of our encounters.
Internal is a series of 25 minute plays in which you are part of the play. With only five members of the audience and as many players, this is a highly intimate, one-on-one experience. Combining elements from group therapy and speed-dating, its stated aim is to explore whether it is possible to form meaningful relationships in less than half an hour. It is the company’s follow-up, and perhaps response to, the success of last year’s Smile Off Your Face. This was their groundbreaking play in which the audience was blindfolded, touched and asked questions, so that they were forced into a whole new way of responding. Internal takes this concept a step further, with the audience able to change and drive the play – or can they?
From the moment you arrive in the reception of the Point Hotel the boundary between audience and play is being redefined. The hotel setting immediately places you in an environment of meetings, encounters, unsettling your normal expectations. As you are led into a darkened room and asked to stand on a cross there is something of the Victorian parlour game about the whole affair, a feeling that intensifies when a curtain goes up to reveal a row of almost disembodied feet, such is the – intentional – trick of the light. When your eyes adjust to the darkness, you find yourself face to face with a figure dressed timelessly in black and white attire, standing an unnerving matter of inches away. Thrust out of your comfort zone, you wordlessly make eye contact. Seconds turn into minutes. Do you look away? Should you speak? What is expected of you? Immediately the fourth wall of theatre has been dissolved and you are within. Internal.
Everything conspires to create a sense of intimacy, from the veiled privacy of the booths to the pools of light that envelop you and your partner in your own, separate world. You sip your whiskey. Personal, leading questions are asked, so that before you know it you have given away something of yourself. Perhaps you are physically touched. The speed-dating element has been chosen for a reason – sex has always been the fast track to intimacy. And then the intimacy is stripped away as you are revealed to the rest of the group by your partner – what you said, what you did.
As you sit across from ‘your’ actor you could be with a fortune teller, when you return to sit in a circle of chairs with the group you could be at a séance. What is real? What is fake? And what do the credulous want to believe? There is something intensely unsettling about this play which arises from the tension between what is acted and what is ‘real’. It is, as the press blurb claims, ‘equally challenging and treacherously profound’, as it forces us to consider not whether this encounter was meaningful but to what extent any of our encounters are. Boundary breaking theatre at its most successful.