Star rating: ***
Straight off, it just looks like bossy-boots behaviour. Perhaps the nippy blonde is simply training the shyly grinning bloke in the little courtesies of taking our tickets - but actually dictating how he should tear the cardboard strips? What he should say to each ticket-holder? It's funny, for us. A tad humiliating for him, surely? It all clicks into place within minutes of this Station House Opera (SHO) performance getting under way. Not one of the five performers knows their own mind. One of the others tells them what to do, how to react, what to think. Meanwhile, each cast member is also ordering - as in "thinking for" - somebody else. It sounds more complicated than it looks, and mostly it looks hilarious. Especially when it takes all five of them to make a cup of tea and then drink it.
The on-stage props - two stand-alone doors, two tables, several chairs and miscellaneous everyday objects - certainly encourage domestic farce. And for a while the harum-scarum action is entertainingly ridiculous. But suddenly the jolly slapstick turns sinister. How easy to say "smash him" - or indeed "kiss him" - when you are not delivering the smacker to head or lips. The cast adhere superbly to mindless biddability. And, of course, no-one is responsible for the outcome of their orders. Even when three musicians arrive with a rootie-toot-toot medley (played with infectious swing), no-one says anything, so no-one does anything. And finally, when we are all, literally, in the dark, the mindless obedience continues - complete with biff-bang-wallop noises off. By then, hopefully, we have started thinking for ourselves and realising how inspired, how politically and socially astute this SHO performance is. A strong start to the New Territories season, which continues tonight and tomorrow with Companhia Paulo Ribeiro.
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