Theatre review: In the Beginning was the End at Somerset House

Stephane Cornicard in Dreamthinkspeak's In The Beginning Was The End. Photo: Jim Stephenson

Stephane Cornicard in Dreamthinkspeak's In The Beginning Was The End. Photo: Jim Stephenson - Credit: Archant

Entertaining and thought-provoking experience takes place beneath Somerset House

Site-specific theatre company Dreamthinkspeak uses all manner of unexpected spaces for its immersive shows, crisscrossing the globe to stage productions everywhere from a disused paper factory in Moscow to a hotel in Kuala Lumpur.

Few sites can have been more alluring than Somerset House, which plays host to latest show In the Beginning was the End.

Described as a promenade piece, it sees the “audience” roaming freely in a network of hallways and rooms beneath street level.

The opening is cinematic and even slightly frightening, as we are rushed inside by panicked attendants who give off the distinct impression that some dangerous experiment has gone awry.


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The pace quickly slows, however, and over the next 70 minutes or so, we are simply left to explore the site, which is split into two sections.

First we tour a series of dark, run-down labs populated by mad professor types, who fill their walls with endless equations written in chalk, or enigmatically prod lemons with electrodes.

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Later we enter the bright, shiny offices of Fusion Ltd, a technology firm staffed by bumbling technicians, who fashion bizarre and useless gizmos that don’t really work.

The production, inspired by a Leonardo Da Vinci drawing depicting an apocalyptic downpour of man-made objects, is somewhere between large-scale installation, performance art and experimental theatre.

Clear themes emerge, of out-of-control materialism and the blind march of technology, but, with all the actors speaking exclusively in foreign tongues, whether Spanish, French or German, they are not really fleshed out in any detail.

It does make for an entertaining and thought-provoking evening – just don’t go expecting a clear beginning and end.

 

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