‘What’s going on…??’
It is relentless, loud, and transfixing.
Rosana Cade cries, with their head in the seat of a swivel chair, spinning slowly in front of a fixated and silent audience.
‘What’s going on…??’
Responds Ivor MacAskill, lying on his front and discovering that his swivel chair has an unfoldable footrest. He gazes at it like it’s a new form of adultery. A passion he has yet to know and which he finds fascinating to the point of absorption.
No one knows what’s going on. Not Cade or MacAskill, not the audience, not the characters that Cade or MacAskill play (both called ‘Barry’) – welcome to Moot Moot.
Moot Moot opens with a long extended physical sequence, where Cade and MacAskill painstakingly pull themselves across the space of Summerhall’s Dissection Room. They graspingly extend and reach towards each other, only to curl back in on themselves. White noise pounds the room, and then Cade and MacAskill notice the swivel chairs. These chairs become the essential backbone of their piece and the focal point for the rest of the show.
Cade and MacAskill are presenters – they are presenting a show. Their characters are called Barry, and Barry. Each Barry overlays and interrupts the other one, with repeated pronouncements that they want to hear our opinion – listeners are invited with relentless aplomb, to ‘Tell us about your day’, ‘it’s all about YOU’, and (my favourite) ‘what’s going ON?’
It is a kind of newsroom madness. What Cade and MacAskill really strike the heart of is how much noise there actually is in everyday life – all the questions, all the ‘how are you?’s, all the conversations with colleagues that are a placatory kind of social construct, tiny units in a great big momentous nothing.
The conceit of Moot Moot really does work – Barry and Barry are grating, but Cade and MacAskill make us care about why they are like this. Caught in relentless loops of their own design, fascinated by the chairs that support them, they take the space and do not relinquish it. It is very funny. Their breakfast show never begins, it never happens, and it never really ends. It is just there, a kind of screaming purgatorial constant.
Within this, though, are opportunities to explore some real darkness within the conceit. This happens to an extent but it feels like it is smothered as soon as it is revealed. Moot Moot slingshots very quickly back into its safeties – ‘Tell us about your day’, ‘It’s all about YOU’, ‘what’s going ON?’ More time exploring the darkness of the Barrys, and their vulnerabilities, would be a deeply rewarding spectacle.
Cade and MacAskill have managed to design a full emotional spectrum with naught but two matching suits, two swivel chairs, and impeccably tight and regimented sound design. Their performances are distorted membranes of themselves – spinning, crawling, bouncing across their own landscape. An unusual piece, which never feels like a farce of itself. It is relentless, loud, and transfixing.