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Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, Rosemary Branch: Messy and bewildering but very effective

PUBLISHED: 16:37 09 November 2016 | UPDATED: 17:19 10 November 2016

Cecil Baldwin. Picture: Lee Faircloth

Cecil Baldwin. Picture: Lee Faircloth

Archant

There can’t be too many plays where a man emptying a bag of Wotsits over his face has strong competition for “messiest moment”.

A4 sheets containing numbers 1 to 30 were pegged to a clothes line across the stage, enabling the audience to choose sketches by shouting out numbers. Picture: New York Neo-FuturistsA4 sheets containing numbers 1 to 30 were pegged to a clothes line across the stage, enabling the audience to choose sketches by shouting out numbers. Picture: New York Neo-Futurists

But Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, in which five players perform up to 30 sequences in the space of an hour, also saw those people dunk their faces in poster paint, pour instant coffee onto a man’s penis and eat raw margarine.

That the cast were forced to spend the entire evening with paint and baking ingredients caked around their mouths and eyes was not (just) masochistic writing, but the result of an aleatoric twist: the audience was asked to choose, by shouting numbers, the order in which we wanted to see the sketches.

The performers had an hour to get through as many sketches as possible. It was measured by a large alarm clock, pictured. Picture: New York Neo-FuturistsThe performers had an hour to get through as many sketches as possible. It was measured by a large alarm clock, pictured. Picture: New York Neo-Futurists

The menu, it turned out, included a brutal monologue about life as a refugee and a particularly devastating sequence about finding and losing love while living with HIV, delivered by the usually effervescent Cecil Baldwin as he washed his face with a car sponge.

After two dozen sketches, the bellows of “twenty five!” and “thirteen!” had become decidedly more ragged: like speaking out loud during a dream, these nonsensical outbursts punctuated abstract depictions of loneliness, sex, racism, homophobia and memory that were moving and hilarious, sometimes but not always at the same time.

Details

Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, Rosemary Branch pub theatre, Shepperton Road, Islington. Tickets £14 on the door or at rosemarybranchtheatre.co.uk. Runs daily until November 20 from 9.30pm, except Sundays from 6.30pm.

And the randomised structure was anything but a gimmick.

Just like our own actual lives, these sketches – whose resourceful use of space, light and sound made a small stage feel unfathomably, even uncomfortably large – were delivered without respite or warning in a meaningless vacuum of order.

That realisation was more affecting than any scripted narrative might have been.


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