Pros: A quirky little piece with a great cast.
Cons: Without much of a storyline, the show is difficult to follow.
When I first signed up to review The Rules of Inflation, I was a little sceptical. I wanted to review shows so I could see different types of theatre from different perspectives; this show seemed to tick all of those boxes, but I also felt like I was going in blind…
Located in Balham, Theatre N16 is a pub theatre offering a creative space for new productions like these. Personally I think this was a pretty perfect match! Shortly after arrival, we were taken to our individual seats by a bouncy, young guy dressed completely in pink. Even if you were in couples or groups you were seated separately. The seats were quite isolated and you had plenty of space around you. I also liked the idea of this; so far so good…
The rest of the cast are also present right from the start, sitting on the floor and on chairs around the room, acting all innocent. The middle of the performance space is taken up by a big, square box and hundreds of balloons of different shapes, colours and sizes fill the floor. It briefly felt like being in a children’s birthday party, but as soon as the show starts, the lights start flickering eerily.
Throughout the show, the lighting very effectively creates a scary atmosphere. I should also make a note here for anyone who has a clown phobia: this is not the show for you. The show starts with the music of a familiar nursery rhyme and BANG: someone pops a balloon, and you jump an inch from your chair. I was on tenterhooks throughout the performance, and every time a balloon popped – whether it was burst intentionally or not – I jumped.
The focal point of the show is a series of children’s games anyone would recognise. The players are four colour characters: there’s the bubbly and playful Yellow (Bryony Cole); the curious Pink (BJ McNeill); the obedient Green (Emily Sitch); and the wise Blue (Nastazja Somers). Meanwhile, Joshua Webb’s slightly disturbing clown controls everything that’s going on. Seeing these games from your childhood being played brings back a lot of memories. The characters all display the emotions you’d have had as a child playing these games – feelings you still have as an adult, but that you’ve learned to show in different ways.
For me, the confusion started during a game of Pass the Parcel. The items found in between the layers of wrapping paper made no sense to me at all. The four characters were throwing in adult suggestions and perhaps political views, but then the next second they would be back wrestling each other or frolicking with the balloons. All in all, the performance lasts only an hour and, other than one lengthy speech close to the end, most of it just seems to be child’s play with a creepy clown edge. Although the characters’ games and their responses echo adult reactions throughout, I personally didn’t find it easy to discover a storyline or to connect the show to a specific political view or an agenda.
That being said, the actors all give outstanding performances, particularly Webb, who was so good he was scary. The other cast members too really made me feel like I was part of their peculiar party, with giggles and plenty of eye contact throughout. Also, this performance has definitely left me thinking! I enjoyed the uncertainty of the show and it has been the topic of my conversation over the past 24 hours – I would definitely recommend a visit to see this for yourself next time Balloons Theatre are in town.
Written and Produced By: Balloons Theatre
Booking Information: This show has now completed its run.