101

I have had a dream, past the wit of man to say what dream it was, but it happened at 11am in the dark recesses of C's soco building. In that most saturated of fringe markets (pop-Shakespeare) the immersive method of presenting theatre is too often shunned, with companies seemingly erring at the perceived barrier offered by Jacobethan English (yes I did), favouring instead another Grimm fairytale, a devised piece narrated by Peter Pan's disenfranchised shadow, or Alice in Wonderland told from the perspective of the 'eatme' pill.The company here put a girdle around a Shakespearean comedy in 40 minutes (after an energetic group warm-up including drama games learned from 'the R. A. D. A'), in which the audience member is central to the development of the plot. During the course of the show I played a shallot, was made to feel beautiful (the subtext here is that my BMI has just crept over 25 so I'm feeling fragile at the moment) and had a little snog at the end. Result.101 do not allow you to sit comfortably through their performance. This experience alone is worth the entrance fee as too much of the 21st Century's theatre is dominated by the Simon Callows of this world telling us all to be quiet. The spacious volubility of the drumming decasyllabon would not have existed had 17th century audiences sat down and shut up. Nor do they here. The shifting scenes were handled excellently and text was judiciously integrated in a performance that was both controlled and highly professional in its execution. The presentation of the epilogue after the characters (and some audience members) had left was another excellent directorial decision, further illuminating the imaginary forces upon which 101 work. For the first day of a three-day preview run this show was very impressive, and will continue to blossom as the cast learn to deal with a range of audience responses. Their energy and dedication is impressive also; with three shows a day I hope they can maintain this intensity of performance. In the prevailing economic climate this is the type of theatre that simply cannot exist outside the fringe; and, for me, is closer to the beating heart of Shakespeare's work than any Callovian drivel. I am deliberately trying not to reveal too much of the scenarios and techniques used, as I don't want to spoil the experience for the audiences to come. Theatre, necessarily temporary, lives and dies in the moment. 101 are to be commended for the considered and intelligent integration of text into performance, and for not shying away from the challenges offered by Shakespeare to the 21st century audience.

Reviews by Ben Blyth

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The Blurb

Critically-acclaimed interactive experience sees a small audience involved directly in a performance grounded in classical drama and folklore. All-new series of scenarios. ***** (BroadwayBaby.com). 'Extreme, exciting' **** (ThreeWeeks). 'Really rather fascinating' (Lyn Gardner, Guardian). www.oneohone.org

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