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Glasshouse, The Battersea Arts Centre

The Honest Crowd
Pros: It’s unique and quite funny at times. The performers show excellent composure in the face of adversity.

Cons: A little repetitive in the early stages and fairly unpleasant to watch at times. Not for those who don’t like a little audience-participation.

Our verdict: An interesting experiment and very well performed. The script, while simple, does its job. Fans of performance art and surrealism may enjoy it.

My friends will tell you that I don’t like to admit when I don’t understand something. I always

Courtesy of Ludo Des Cognets

have to find the theme or the message in anything I see or read (handy, for a reviewer, you might say). I’m about to let you all know that The Honest Crowd’s Glasshouse had me stumped. Stumped!

The scene is a dinner party with about thirty guests, five of whom are the performers. I was a little surprised to be sitting at the dinner table with them, but then I remembered that I was at the Battersea Arts Centre and it all made sense. When I took my seat next to one of the performers, it wasn’t long before a dagger of dread penetrated by chest. What if they get me involved?

I am pleased to report, dear readers, that no such thing came to fruition. There is a little audience participation, but it is minimal (and involuntary). The audience simply sit at the table listening to a typical dinner table conversation. Three times. Just as one begins to wonder if this cycle will repeat itself indefinitely, a subtle change is made to the conversation. Gradually, the scene changes beyond recognition.
For forty minutes, the performers are subjected to bread rolls substituted by lemons, then grass, then chillis, a sponge and a whole, raw egg. Wine is spilling out of glasses and grapes strewn about the place. The conversation becomes incoherent, although the script remains intact. Suddenly, it all goes black. And out comes the water pistol.

The performances are admirable. Covered in food and wine, blindfolded, squirted, forced to eat grass mixed with raw eggs, the five continue their conversation almost as if nothing has happened. It is an impressive display of professionalism and self-control. When the music becomes deafening and one can barely hear one’s thoughts, they still hit their cues.

Perhaps that’s what Glasshouse is all about – an experiment in what has to be thrown at an actor to put him off his lines. Maybe it is a study of the stiff upper lip – whatever you do, you won’t get them to admit that something is wrong. Much like the final dinner party scene in Carry on up the Khyber – chaos can’t stop this meal.

What is clear is that Glasshouse is an experiment of some kind. At times it is amusing, at times a little unpleasant (wine, chilli and raw egg dripping from the chin hardly shows good table manners). That said,it is always bold and, especially for the waitress, who inflicts this misery on the guests, quite a lot of fun too.

I’m not entirely sure what it achieves, though. While unique, it doesn’t seem to break any boundaries or push any limits. Call me unadventurous, but I found it a little too strange and perhaps slightly gratuitous in its absurdity.

A word of warning to those planning to see it – don’t wear your favourite frock and steer clear of pale garments – you might find yourself wearing bits of somebody else’s dinner at some point.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

Glasshouse runs at The Battersea Arts Centre until 20 July 2013 before transferring to
The Basement for the Brighton Festival
Box office:
https://www.bac.org.uk/bac/shows/glasshouse1 or 020 7223 2223

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