Ridiculusmus don’t really leave us with anything more than the mouse droppings on the stage floor and the tears of spiteful laughter running coldly down our cheeks.
This is bold, divisive theatre. None of our various premises really seem to matter; the number of metatheatrical interruptions rules out any deep connection with our characters. Our pair of multi-roling actors (Jon Haynes and David Woods) are dressed in grey hoodies and tights, often sporting mouse ears, ill-fitting whiskers and tails - which fall off, a lot. Their outfits rarely correspond specifically to who they’re supposed to be, whether man or mouse; their slapdash attitude towards their characters’ dress is deliberate and wonderfully comical.
Often, the “artistic director” – just one in the many layers of mouse-ception – will talk about his play, which he calls “immersive durational headphone theatre.” It’s clear that the duo is mocking someone, but it’s not clear who: is it themselves and excessively ambitious plans they once made? (A rather different synopsis of the play exists on their website.) Is it ill-fitting allegories like the one in this story? Is it verbatim theatre as a genre? At times like these, the vagueness of the satire noticeably deprives it of venom.
The duo often breaks character onstage, but always into other characters, in a kind of infinite loop. At the start of the play, an old lady (Haynes) is being evicted from her home (as are the mice: deep). Haynes plays by turns a mouse, the head of Summerhall and a pest-control expert. Our other characters (Woods) are the artistic director, Gladys the old dear, another pest-controller and another mouse. The deconstruction of what we expect from theatre is intriguing; the demonstration of what constitutes theatrical sin is frequently hilarious. The farcical nature of the play, though, does detract from how much meaning we can take away from it.
Its attempts to link genocide and pest control (via age discrimination) are, it seems, intentionally half-hearted. When the dialogue breaks down into extended mouse-chasing scenes, the physical theatre is temporarily priceless, but there’s no enduring payoff. The real problem with this point-and-laugh production is that it’s too mean-spirited. By questioning what we expect from theatre – and by mocking what should be avoided – Ridiculusmus don’t really leave us with anything more than the mouse droppings on the stage floor and the tears of spiteful laughter running coldly down our cheeks.