Pros: A relevant, timely piece that looks at the role of the media and the government in producing a climate of fear.
Cons: The show engages with its subject in a very intellectual way and your general knowledge needs to be quite extensive to grasp everything that’s going on.
124 Fallout by People Show is an interdisciplinary series of short scenes centred on the themes of terrorism, fear and the apocalypse. In a mere half hour these otherwise unrelated vignettes, that combine video, sound design and performance, paint a convincing picture of a society gone completely off the rails; a society of 1984-esque interrogations and cheery songs that advise you how to behave in case of a terrorist attack.
It is a timely piece that, at its best moments, implicitly questions the sanity of government actions such as, say, raising the terrorism threat level to severe with a tongue-in-cheek approach. Highlights include a public information-style voiceover that warns the audience to ‘beware of falling trees’ and the intriguing question of how to fashion a first aid kit out of a bible and a beating heart. Unfortunately, these moments of clarity are thin on the ground compared to scenes where I found it difficult to fathom what exactly was going on.
An example is the scene in which Jessica Worrall recites a short section of the Bhagavad Gita (including the phrase ‘Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds’) while footage of a desert-like landscape is projected onto the wall. I found it all rather baffling until a bit of post-show research revealed the footage to be taken from a film about nuclear testing and the phrase about death to have been quoted by Robert Oppenheimer, one of the so-called ‘fathers of the atomic bomb’. In hindsight it makes perfect sense, but during the show it was simply confusing. I don’t think I’m flattering myself when I say that I’m a relatively well-educated person, so it seems a bit overconfident to expect the average audience member to know things like this.
On the whole, the show explores its themes in this intellectual way, and that strikes me as counter-intuitive. After all, fear is not an intellectual process: it’s instinctive, it’s a gut reaction. Evoking emotions and letting your audience experience what you mean rather than just talking about it is what theatre is good at. To overlook the emotional potential of performance in favour of a rational observation of the subject seems like a missed opportunity. Nevertheless, 124 Fallout demonstrates that People Show is a company that has an eye for challenging, relevant topics and is not afraid to engage with them in thought-provoking ways.
Devised by: Gareth Brierley, Sadie Cook, Fiona Creese, George Khan and Jessica Worrall
Video: Rob Kennedy
Producer: People Show
Booking Information: This show has now completed its run.