YesYesNoNo are searching for the truth. No, seriously. Within the (very intimate) Pleasance Beside, a visiting actor is introduced to the audience who has never seen or participated in this work before. They are fresh to a sequence of events that the rest of the company have rehearsed. There is a silence, and then the process begins. The ‘accident’ in question in The Accident Did Not Take Place is a plane falling from the sky. And within this frame, the company blend intimacy and catastrophism.
YesYesNoNo blend intimacy and catastrophism
This is an electric concept and the process is rigorous. Each company member rehearses a scene over and over again with the visiting performer – it is anxiety inducing and sometimes very rough; they hotseat them; they interrogate them. YesYesNoNo have formidable experience in destabilising the proscenium arch of normative theatre with an almost carelessly brilliant dynamite. To review The Accident Did Not Take Place is to acknowledge that every day this play is different. It could only be captured fairly if a different reviewer went to each performance and their reactions were compiled into a YesYesNoNo exegesis. Similarly, so much of the performance’s success hinges around the flexibility and resilience of the performer participating in the experiment; it is this golden thread that keeps the audience hooked and squirming throughout.
Theatre is essentially a ‘live’ medium – most of it happens before your eyes, with real bodies in the room – to me, this piece of work felt ‘double live’. Yes, the show has been rehearsed, but not by all the people participating in it. And that bridges between the conceit of theatre – that everything is in some way rehearsed, or at least planned – and the immediacy of real life, where often things just happen, for better or worse. This is the core of the experience The Accident Did Not Take Place offers: an unstable platform upon which there are moments of brilliance but also moments of failure too.
On Thursday 8th August, I watched The Accident Did Not Take Place with James Rowland as the visiting performer. He approached the scenario with applaudable flexibility and resilience, and he was charming too. The audience wanted him to succeed as he wrestled with YesYesNoNo’s routine, and he tapped into that oblique energy expertly. He followed direction without argument, and there were moments where Rowland took over the space as a performer in his own right. This was reassuring. It showed that he understood matters of consent around his own body onstage. Constantly, members of the company told him that they still felt distant from him – that they wanted to know more. And Rowland would try to please them once again.
This is where the focusing lens of The Accident Did Not Take Place can be problematic. The way we experience events (and people) can take years. YesYesNoNo do not dispute this - but a visiting actor can’t give their entire heart to a production when they have essentially been parachuted in. To an extent, this actually limits the full potential of the concept. It meant at times, when Rowland was asked questions about his emotions, the exercise felt cruel rather than rewarding. At times, the experiment even felt vainglorious. Huge closeups of Rowland’s face filled the theatre space in real-time as YesYesNoNo followed Rowland with a steadycam. But the pursuit of meaning is dangerous because sometimes there isn’t one.
This is a piece about communication, impermanence, and distance. It allows an audience to see something live and raw without forcing them to take away any morals or didacticisms. On Thursday 8th August, everyone gave confident performances, and the show managed to deliver moments of emotional truth without the logic steps of a narrative. However, the delivery of the concept can at times falter within its own scope. On Thursday 8th August, Rowland was the star of the show – tomorrow, it shall be someone else.