Anoesis took me back to the days of school uniform and strictly invigilated exams, the days when you answered ‘here’ to your name at registration and when teacher’s reports involved the phrase ‘must try harder’. Set in ‘The Dissecting Room’ of the Summerhall venue were two long wooden tables and benches from end to end, facing each other with a space in the centre of the room. Mock exam papers and pens were laid out for each audience member and our names taken on an attendance register as we entered into the space. The student-actors came and sat in spaces along the benches between the audiences and completed the feeling that we, the audience, were participating in this exam alongside them.
The performance began with the audience and actors’ names being called in attendance, then the rules of the exams and exam questions themselves were read out. This regulated order began to crumble, however, as a mixture of scenes ranging from physical theatre to a game-show round of ‘Who Wants To Be a Successful Human Being’ followed. The physical theatre scenes succeeded in conveying many things: capturing the energy and anxiety of the competitive urge to succeed; demonstrating the tenderness between friends that provide support along the way; or the cold loneliness of those left behind. However, at times the movement was over-repetitive and rather too long, making the point being made slightly grating and a little patronising for the wholly adult audience.
There were excellent comic moments, a great rapport created with and constant involvement of members of the audience which demonstrated the actors’ ability to be intuitive, charismatic and quick in their improvisation to audience member’s responses. On the whole I found this performance to be well-devised and well-performed, simple but equally interesting and effective. This piece, although well executed, is not especially exceptional or startling. Anoesis is an inventive, charming and accessible piece but it is far from groundbreaking student theatre.