Pros: Both actors are extremely amusing, and put a lot into this very funny physical show.
Cons: The narrative loops, swoops and swirls, and is very difficult to stay on top of.
Something strange has occurred at the Battersea Arts Centre. The building seems to have been overrun by men in mice costumes for Ridiculusmus’s performance of The World Mouse Plague – a performance that was, without question, one of the weirdest things I’ve ever seen. I’m not 100% sure I know what I saw, or what happened, or even that I know what the narrative was—but what I can say with certainty was that it was a genuinely funny event.
The show takes place in the spacious Council Chamber in the sprawling, historical venue that is Battersea Arts Centre. The room is sparse, and largely undecorated, with the exception of lengthy curtains against the walls, and a strange six foot tall Plexiglas and wood structure in the centre of the room, with a box of ‘bix’ – later established to be ‘mouse’ snacks – placed on display within.
The evening involves two men dressed as mice using grey hoodies, wooly (and not overly opaque) tights, mouse ears and whiskers attempting to tell the story of a building in which residents are relocated as part of a gentrification project. The premise has an artist in residence moving into the space to create an interactive show that, through the guise of everyone in the building wearing the mouse costumes and headphones, is a telling of “stage four genocide.” There are Nazi references aplenty, which tie this mousy tale into a wider frame of reference.
So far so good, but good luck applying reason towards the hilarity that unfolds. There are only two men in the show (Jon Haynes and David Woods) and they flit back and forth between playing a few characters – the artist, the producer of the Battersea Arts Centre, a beleaguered and displaced elderly woman, pest controllers, and at times actual mice. The evening deliberately does not go smoothly, and before long it turns out that – irony of ironies – the building is infested with mice, and the production will have to be moved on.
It’s not an easy train of thought to follow, but the individual sketches and pieces are highly amusing. The scampering of the mice never stops being funny, nor does the manner in which they simulate defecation. They tend to hold pauses just long enough for things to be awkward, and both men are quick on their feet when needing to improvise (there’s a brilliant moment in this performance where the line “are you from Punchdrunk?!” came up and left the audience rolling with laughter.)
The evening ends with a finale that is strangely sad but equally, guiltily funny. I confess that if there was a moral to the story, I missed it. It’s deliberately tough in this production to understand what you are watching and what is, for a lack of a better word, ‘real.’ What is the show within the show that they are aiming to put on? What parts are being played by the artist, and are the mice ‘real’? Who is responsible for the demise in the end, and who is actually the victim once the lights go down – is it the artist, or have the mice met a nasty end?
It’s not a show for those liking a cut and dried narrative, but for anyone seeking a riotous evening of farce and dark humour, this is the show to scamper to.
Devised and Performed by: David Woods and Jon Haynes
Booking Info: This show was a one-off performance.