This Third Angel and mala voadora production at the Northern Stage at St. Stephen’s – a glorious venue, in case you’re interested – is a well executed and a truly interesting and eye-opening hour, spent in the safe hands of three actors who whisk us through a series of anecdotes that illuminate the customs, cultural identities and stories of countries from around the world.
The set looks like a cross between James May’s “Man Lab” and a 1990s sitcom, Chris Thorpe already standing playing the guitar that continues to be used throughout as the show begins, surrounded by paraphernalia that looks mundane but is actually made to be scientific. Jorge Andrade and Alexander Kelly sit facing the audience, and from the beginning the three of them speak to us, presenting the play rather than performing it and guiding us through the interesting, the horrifying and the plain bizarre stories from around the world.
The premise of the play is to “hold an accurate picture of the world in your head”. It sounds impossible, but the ensemble manages to engage with a huge number of cultural stories in a very short space of time. Although only fleetingly touching on each location, they do not shy away from the Israel/Palestine conflict in amongst the funny stories about Korean haircuts, and are almost breezy in their admittance – on behalf of the liberal populace – that we only learn about things like the situation in the Middle East so that we can mention them at parties. There are several moments where there is genuine anger expressed onstage – at our willful ignorance of Africa, at the perversion of the Santa Cruz massacre – but all the dangers of didactic and potentially indigestible exposition are quickly expelled with wonderful comic timing, stage spectacle and the fact that they don’t dwell simply on the bad things in the world, but also the good – as well as the plain weird.
The only danger of trying to capture the whole of the world is that you are going to miss vital parts out, but I think the production realises that they will never truly succeed, and rather that it is the attempt to capture as much of it as possible that is important. Aside from this, the company manage to represent every continent – even Antarctica, beautifully – and the whirlwind hour is well worth a watch: the creators of this piece are a very special few out of the 7.026bn (at last count) we are told populate the world.