The Stroop Effect

The disparity between the promotional material put out by theatre groups and the reality of what they present to audiences is often quite staggering. The Stroop Effect is an excellent example of this phenomenon. The final year BA (Hons) Acting and Creative Performance students from the University Centre Colchester aim to present "a series of devised pieces as part of The Creative Performance Company." Their basic introduction to the work is as follows: "What is the difference between reality and belief? What is the difference between being awake and asleep? Brace yourself for an epic physical theatre piece; entrance yourself into a lucid dream state. Sweet dreams..."

In keeping with the subject matter this is a lethargic production that lacks focus and a meaningful structure

Even if the students used the Stroop Effect as a stimulus for this piece, the work has long since lost sight of it. There are no projected bright colours with mismatched descriptive names nor, in a production without coherent dialogue, is there any exploration of the mental confusion this causes. Setting that aside the performance can be seen to depict "lucid dreaming, insomnia and sleep paralysis" as they claim. The beds, the pillows and the endless wanderings around the stage depict movements of people in various drowsy conditions. What it fails to do is live up to answering the question posed in the blurb of explaining "the difference between reality and belief". That is best witnessed in the difference between the reality of what happens on stage and what the students apparently believe to be happening.

There is also no way in which The Stroop Effect comes even close to being "epic physical theatre". In a later explanation of their work the students credit the influence ofDV8and "the stylistic workings of Brecht." Again, they might well believe in that, but what appears in performance is far removed from anything that might be expected from such sources of inspiration. Further confusion abounds in the words of co-director Bryony Clover. She claims, “We are all so interested in visualising the matter, rather than telling people about it. I feel that showing the audience can make it more personal, not just to us but to our audience watching it." Unless movement alone is the medium of "telling people" this work is actually a visualisation which requires us to place our own interpretation upon it and derive for yourself such meaning as might be hidden in it.

In keeping with the subject matter this is a lethargic production that lacks focus and a meaningful structure. There is plenty of material but no order. The sound, lighting and movements are all in need of refinement and the cast needs to develop an overt passion for what is taking place. They are clearly not without ideas in the selection of devices and imagery and some moments reflect this. Several times the versatile sheet was put to effective use, but it all seemed to be an effort.

This work has interest by way of subject matter and also potential. In its present form it might best viewed as work in progress rather a finished product and is unlikely to provide anyone with "sweet dreams".

Reviews by Richard Beck

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The Blurb

What is the difference between reality and belief? What is the difference between being awake and asleep? Brace yourself for an epic physical theatre piece; entrance yourself into a lucid dream state. Sweet dreams... BA (Hons) Acting and Creative Performance students from the University Centre Colchester, in their final year of study present a series of devised pieces as part of The Creative Performance Company.

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