The Life and Loves of a Nobody is an imaginatively stark extrapolation of the direction that media magnates might be taking us. It’s not the first piece of theatre to explore this theme; a notable voice in the conversation being The Finger of God by Anders Lustgarten as part of the Theatre Uncut festival 2014. The Life and Loves of a Nobody asks what the price is that TV would pay to maintain audience levels and consolidate their power over the viewing masses.
This dark projection of a fantastical realm of future reality television is magical from the start. The space at The Albany is like a TV studio, or gladiatorial arena, and our hosts are TV personalities with the arrogant gloss of the untouchable. Using simple stylised set the audience is taken in flashbacks though the life of the participant in question until reaching the present day when the audience will vote on her destiny. Magical fairy lights, a constructed tower block and a field of butterflies all serve to romanticise the life of this ‘nobody’, Rachel. But this too is temporary. We’re reminded that there are other people waiting and willing to sit on that chair once her entertainment value has been expended. The two performers, Rachel Walton and Nick Chambers are outstanding as they switch roles from young Rachel and her friends, to perfectly composed yet lethal presenters, earning their crust through the potential sacrifice of this nobody.
Third Angel Theatre Company have been influenced by The Hunger Games, but using live theatre to achieve this degree of immediacy is exceptionally affecting. So too is the empty chair for the participant Rachel whose voice we hear only once as stating her name and age and her agreement to play out this entertainment, whatever the outcome. The title of the play consciously reinforces the negative values associated with being a ‘nobody’ and then fulfils itself – ‘Rachel’ really is nobody. The false promises of immortality, made by the entertainment deities, are shown to be exactly that. ‘Rachel’ is a disposable unit long before her fate is even decided. The arbitrariness of picking up the paper and seeing an advertisement promising fame is a feeling that ’everybody’ can associate with. In a world where personal worth is measured by how many people follow you on Twitter it gives hope in a world of fear. This fear is perpetuated by precisely the media companies who promise to assuage, a transparently obvious game that is profitable to only one – that same media company whose only concern is their bottom line. It’s a vicious cycle. And ultimately the cold faceless entertainment company is able to wash their hands of the whole sordid affair; they are, after all, only giving her what she wanted.
Audience complicity and thereby the responsibility of the consumer is an uncomfortable part of this discomforting piece of theatre. From the start we are told of a crowd of protestors who have made entry to the building difficult. Having chosen to enter the auditorium there is a final decision on which the audience need to vote. The culpability and thereby the responsibility of the consumer is raised.
This piece of devised theatre is thorough and brilliantly thought out; just like the TV it represents, it’s also fairly subversive – you don’t even realise you are complicit, even morbidly excited, until it’s too late. The self-realisation at the end is as shocking a window on human nature as the Milgram experiment. We live in times of increasing freedom of information and as a response to that media magnates are vamping up efforts to ensnare their viewers. It won’t come to this but having watched this show you get the idea that something big has been realised here. Go and see it while you can.
Review by Annemarie Hiscott
Third Angel examines our obsession with fame, fortune and celebrity in an extraordinary telling of an ordinary story. In their distinctive style, Third Angel co-founder Rachael Walton and performer Nick Chambers create the world of Rachel, a character we never meet, with string and scissors, light, shade, and paper butterflies. By looking at the intimate details and moments of beauty in a run-of-the-mill life, they question why it is that people strive for fame, and whether it makes you a ‘somebody’.
Company Information: Performed by Nick Chambers and Rachael Walton Devised by Alexander Kelly and Rachael Walton
Sound design by Ivan Mack Design by Andrew Stephenson
Lighting Design by Mark Howland Produced by Dep Arts
The will be a BSL performances at each venue – for full details please visit the venue’s website
27th January 2015 Live at LICA, Lancaster
Lancaster University, Lancaster LA1 4YW
liveatlica.org 01524 594151
3rd – 7th February 2015 The Albany, London
Douglas Way, Deptford, London SE8 4AG
7.30pm, Sat matinee 2.30pm £12 (£10 concs)
www.thealbany.org.uk 020 8692 4446
12th February 2015 Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry
University of Warwick, Coventry CV4 7AL
7.45pm £12 (£10 and £9.50 concs)
www.warwickartscentre.co.uk 024 7652 4524
13th March 2015 Hull Truck Theatre, Hull
50 Ferensway, Hull, East Riding of Yorkshire HU2 8LB
8pm £12 (£10 concs)
www.hulltruck.co.uk 01482 323638
14th March 2015 Prema Arts Centre, Uley
South Street, Uley, Nr Dursley, Gloucestershire GL11 5SS
www.prema.org.uk 01453 860703
22nd March 2015 Square Chapel Centre for the Arts, Halifax
10 Square Rd, Halifax, West Yorkshire HX1 1QG
7.30pm £13 (£11 concs)
25th March 2015 Cast, Doncaster
Cast, Waterdale, Doncaster DN1 3BU
7.45pm £12.50 (£10.50 concs)
www.castindoncaster.com 01302 303 959
26th & 27th March 2015 The Lowry, Salford
Pier 8, The Quays, Salford, Manchester, Greater Manchester M50 3AZ
8pm £12 (£10 concs)
www.thelowry.com 0843 208 6000
Wednesday 4th February 2105