Edinburgh Fringe 2009
Station House Opera
Venue: C Venue
Festival: Edinburgh Fringe
Station House Opera has hit gold again. Mind Out is a stunning piece of theatre that examines being literally “out of your mind”. Words and actions are divorced from each other so that each performer is split in two with one acting as the mind of another instructing the other on what to do next. Sounds strange? It is, but it produces a show that manages to be both hilarious and thought-provoking.
How many of the cast of Station House Opera does it take to change a light bulb? All of them probably – one to tell another how to do it, another to tell someone else to get the ladder, and so it goes on. In Station House Opera’ latest piece, no actor is an island. The thoughts of each performer is separated from his or her actions so that as one says “You pick up the biscuit”, another will do so, and then as another instructs “You eat the biscuit”, another will eat – though not necessarily the one who has picked up the biscuit!
Initially confusing and hilarious, as Mind Out goes on, it evolves to become something more than the sum of its many parts. It takes human action and relationships and dissects them with skill and precision. The gap between our thoughts and actions, the gaps in perception about how we see each other or present ourselves are put up for inspection. It also speaks to how we interact and to how conflict arises.
Subtexts are brought to the surface. Mind Out exposes how every human interaction is fraught with potential misunderstanding. We see the power imbalance in relationships brought to the surface. People walk on by or take scant notice of cruelty being enacted. And yet, we continue to relate. Part of the triumph of Mind Out –as well as the slapstick hilarity and the carefully constructed confusion – is in highlighting what a wonder it is that we are able to connect at all.
The show was devised by the cast. Zena Birch, Tom Bowtell, Susannah Hart, Helen Morse Palmer and Julian Maynard Smith put in a finely tuned ensemble performance, working together with precision and understanding in what is a complex theatrical undertaking. And it’s got a live jazz band including a penguin playing trombone.
You leave the theatre, your mind is dissecting itself with instructions like these from the show, your thoughts and your actions feel more distinct and more separate…