The play is called Schrödinger. Forget about the famous experiment with the cat though, whether or not the cat can be simultaneously dead and alive in its box does not concern us here. This is a piece of theatre difficult to pin down to its title, and quite frankly, anything at all. It’s not quite a DADA performance but it’s definitely not narrative-driven either.
Five characters spend a frenzied hour in a giant black open-fronted box, crashing and thrashing, in and out of numerous trap doors, in the ceiling and out through the sides. There is limited speech. They drop hammers. They drop each other. They chalk markings onto the walls. These actions seem orchestrated, as if they’re adhering to strict scientific experimental criteria, but then the precision of the action gives way as their vigour increases to frantic states. By the end they are desperately producing symbols, words and graphs, battling against buckets of water washing everything away. They are now visibly exasperated, as if desperately trying to communicate something. There is no character to emotionally connect to though, no story, just sequences of actions and words, often repeated, not especially poetic or enlightening. Reckless Sleepers, a theatre group from Belgium have created an impenetrable watch.
For the most part, the language is at odds with the action. A guy holds up images, as if naming them, but the words don’t correspond. With his head wrapped in a sheet he holds up a picture of a cloud, he says it’s a field. He holds up a picture of an apple, he says it’s a sunset. A woman is lying down, she says she is standing vertical or falling. It’s as if René Magritte’s The Key to Dreams series has been adapted into a theatrical presentation. As Magritte saw it: “An object does not adhere to its name so much so that one could not find it another which suits it better.” His paintings are, amongst other things, an exploration of the limits of language. Reckless Sleepers seem to have delved into such a concept, but haven’t given us a new spin or an interesting angle. This continues throughout the performance, there’s also live action version of his painting, The Lovers, and his signature apples are rife. As a result, the themes Magritte explored emerge as one of the most tangible threads, but we get nothing beyond what Magritte has already given us.
The performance also tries to explore scientific experimentation. The box itself is a visually impressive design, covered in blackboard paint, it is reminiscent of an experimental chamber. At one point an actor begins to investigate a brief case which has been put in front of him, another actor, with the commanding voice of a scientist, appears to give his hesitant actions a numerical value, shouting “ONE ONE ONE TWO TWO ONE ONE ONE”, rounding it off with “NOTHING!” The human subject looks confused, there is no discernible pattern. The scientist seems convinced by the values though. An allusion to the inability of science to give us all the answers to human existence? Again, the audience is left out in the cold.
Yes, the words we ascribe to objects come with limitations, and the scientific pursuit of knowledge has questionable gains. Though such themes and inferences are interesting, these questions already exist. To present them as they are without any coherent thread only leaves us able to project onto the piece, filling in the massive holes it opens up, and therefore have us feel like we’ve come out of the theatre empty-handed. It looked like a great performance, the actors physically busting a gut in and around the box, but unfortunately, it didn’t feel like one.