Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Theatre review: In The Beginning Was The End

Wandering around the bowels of Somerset House didn't feel like something I'd like to do in the dead of winter, so I saved my trip to dreamthinkspeak's new show until March. Of course, this has turned out to be the coldest March in 30 years, but fortunately most of the spaces used for In The Beginning Was The End are well-heated, which is probably a particular relief to the nine members of the cast who have to get nakey. Tristan Sharps' promenade installation (which is now sold out) starts at 5-minute intervals, when a group of about 10 is taken from a generic waiting room down murky staircases to a conference room, where the annual figures of a company are read to us from an ancient-looking tome. The numbers don't sound too good, in fact they're so bad an alarm goes off and we have to escape through the company's laboratories.

From here on it's easy to break away from your original group as there's a couple of possible routes to take - in fact I'm not sure if I missed some of the installations as it's not always possible to go back once you've gone into a room. Throughout the show, each of our various guides speaks in a different language, but an overall picture of a tech company that unleashes hell through its own hubris becomes apparent.

The longest, central section of the show sees us attend the open day of the company, where we find out a bit more about their work than they intended. Their three main products seem destined to go wrong: A voice-recognition programme berates itself when it mishears an instruction; a security system goes berserk; a cute robot pet starts to rebel. The longest single scene takes us to the customer service department, where the screens show some pretty funny emails or statistics about what's going wrong with the products. It eventually gets too much for those working there, who protest with aFULL-FRONTAL MALE NUDITY ALERT!andSEVERE VADGE WARNING!that makes for the most intimate nude scene I can remember (the audience are wandering among the actors at the time. The woman next to me seemed to approve, she applauded most enthusiastically whenever one of the men started to strip.)

We then get a post-apocalyptic vision where the machines have gone horribly wrong and the company's workers are responding in ways even more drastic than stripping, before a hopeful finale. As with a lot of shows like this there's a pretentious edge to it (I'm not sure I could point to even one appearance from John The Baptist, who the programme notes assure me is "ever-present" in the show) but actually its mix of stagecraft, movement, video and technology is furiously inventive and makes for an entertaining show with a rudimentary story running through it. And occasionally you also get to spend a moment looking up and admiring the impressive building it's housed in.

In The Beginning Was The End by Tristan Sharps and dreamthinkspeak is booking until the 30th of March at Somerset House (returns only.)

Running time: 1 hour 15 minutes straight through (this is how long it took me but it's likely to differ from person to person, depending on how long you spend in each room and how mobile you are - there are a lot of stairs.)


  1. Greta review. Note that you say the story line is rather rudimentary... what did you make of the influence of Da Vinci? Equally as non-existent?! I ask because I just did a post on 'Renaissance Men' and am interested to see if the production forwarded ideas he started in his lifetime and never completed/explored to their full potential?

    1. There's certainly some obvious visual links to Leonardo, I'm sure there's more little connections to ideas and projects of his if you know more about him than I do.