'Is anyone here for Square Peg?', a person dressed in a white protective boiler suit and hard hat asked.
This was good punk theatre: DIY, short and cheap. Like life?
A group of us in the Junkyard Dogs café shuffled to our feet and we were told to come through. At our own risk.
Out in the courtyard, protective head gear was handed round. Ear-plugs were offered. The mood was sombre. Everyone complied with instructions and snapped on hair nets and perched hard hats on their heads, although there were a few mumbled grumbles from the back about messed up hair.
We were warned that the factory floor we were entering onto was hazardous. We filed in: the space was small, dark, smoky and claustrophobic. Silently, we sat on seats and around us were barrels and cardboard boxes on which sat small screens showing looped footage of factory production lines. Plastic sheeting hung down and behind one sheet, the shape of another person was pressed against it. The boiler-suited person who showed us in stood sentry-like by the door. It was all rather unsettling.
A few further beats and the person behind the plastic sheeting emerged and walked over to a cardboard box work station-machine. Clad in full protective gear including eye-boggled goggles, they began the repetitive task of hosing from a tube into the box. Over and over and over again. The sentry at the door mirrored repetitive movements. At one point, the worker stopped to pull out from the box a plastic bottle containing a shooting plant and a small green light. They admired the small signs of life and became almost intoxicated by the smell from the bottle. However, the subsequent interruption of work was met with punishment: warnings sirens, then the worker was zapped until stunned.
Back again to work, the same movements again and again, until the end of the day and back behind the sheeting with the sing-song entreaty to close googles, sleep tight. But in the night, there were hints of a rebellion brewing against this dystopia.
The next day, the same work, the same monotony. Until the work station-machine started to malfunction before shutting down completely. The worker extracted plant life from the machine, twirled it in their fingers. And then suddenly mind made up, they stripped right down and...sorry, no spoilers here. Suffice to say, at the end, we were ushered out by the factory representative that showed us in. Apologies were given and we were asked not to tell anyone what we had witnessed. For it does no good to suggest to people that they might break free of monotony and drudgery for a future where brighter, new shoots can grow. Or perhaps we can’t be reminded of that often enough.
We, the audience, filed out as sombre as we went in.
Not a long piece – just 30 minutes - and low budget. The production's condensed length was significant; it contributed to its intensity and the impact it had. This was furthered by the small production space and its transformation into the setting of a dystopian nightmare. This was no happy-clappy walk in the park, for sure. Yet neither was it discomfort for discomfort's sake: the piece was genuinely thought-provoking, and - perhaps - a call to action. Atmospheric and well executed; and music used really effectively. This was good punk theatre: DIY, short and cheap. Like life?