You may have heard the global population is rising and that the world is less than 30% land, however, this show asks - how much do you really know about the other seven billion people you share this planet with, most of whom you'll never meet? Third Angel's entry to the fringe, part of the British Council Showcase, examines what we hear about the world and what these stories mean and represent. It's an exploration of the ways in which we exoticise, idealise or demonise whole cultures and nations by ideas we piece together from second-hand information: Africa, as we know, is all civil wars and machete massacres, Korea the 'repository for all the crazy shit that goes on'.
A three hander, What I Heard About the World is devised and performed by Jorge Andrade, Alexander Kelly and the prolific Chris Thorpe. Thorpe was on top form in this early-morning show, strumming his electric guitar and keeping the audience enraptured with his trademark dry humour, easy lyricism and charmingly serious delivery. Andrade is a versatile actor, playing around with different accents and even languages; together with Kelly they make a compelling motley international trio. The three performers recount and re-enact stories from across the globe: there's hijacked planes, karaoke and painted zebras; superstitious cosmetic surgery, climate change and Thorpe drinking a pint of brine (not for the squeamish).
What we are given are facts – statistical nuggets or narrative fragments that we might glean from Wikipedia or a quirky news spread – reflecting the ways in which we form our conceptions of the world. These don't just wash as trivia, they're staged with a huge and fantastical number of props and set pieces, creating some stunning stage images and often delivered with humour and flair. We race across continents without leaving our seats, skimming the surface of a terrifying but 'beautiful world' that is itself obsessed and defined by surfaces: a paid mourner wails at a funeral in Brazil, a surgeon cuts the lines on someone's palm to alter their fortune, in the US a cardboard army dad keeps a waiting family company.
The show effectively highlights how in a world of constant, instant information, we remain as clueless as ever about those around us, happy to live atomised and deluded. But it's also a poignant celebration of storytelling, the endurance of tales that are told, transported and amplified across oceans. These skilful theatre-makers craft an alluring theatrical landscape, staging 'the worlds we hold in our heads' and – since it's 9am – putting a croissant in our hand. All food for thought and the imagination, well worth getting up for.