If I was to say the name Thomas Edison, I bet your mind would automatically go to electricity or the host of other things he is famous for. However, if I was to say, Nikola Tesla, I would expect to be met by a sea of frowning faces and the words “who’s he then?” – in fact, I would have been one of those not having a clue who the gentleman was. Until last night when a trip to The Space where The Outbound Project are currently staging their show 12 Million Volts.
This is not a play in the conventional sense. The four performers (Lucy Bishop, Martin Chime, Gordon Milar and Jordan Turner) are all dressed alike – brown shoes, grey trousers, white shirts and black ‘frock’ style coats – and they tell the life story of Tesla using a variety of methods. Since Tesla’s work revolved around electricity, the team use a lot of lighting effects to bring the story to life. Some are very simple – a torch on a pair of working hands – others are more complex but all of them illuminate Tesla – if you’ll pardon the pun – and bring life to the man himself, even if he is there only in our imagination. As well as lighting, there is physical movement, normal objects used in unexpected ways and puppetry.
Tesla had a fascinating life and I loved the way that, from the start, the audience were brought into the production as a fifth member of the cast, doing all the imagining. The number 3 was important to Tesler and life itself. So, as the cast explained at the start of the show “there are always at least three sides to every story, one person’s side, the other person’s side… and the truth”. This ‘three’ motif carried on through the performance with the action being stopped in places so that the audience could be told three facts. The really odd thing is that, while Tesla had this thing about the number three, there are four people in the show.
The entire production depends on split second timing with the cast, sound and lighting synchronised perfectly to keep the show moving at the right pace and, for the majority of the time this really happened splendidly. The problem is that if one of the elements is only a half second out with the others it is rather noticeable and a couple of times this did happen. However full credit to director Chris Yarnell for keeping everything moving and the entire company for devising such an interesting show which managed to fit the major facts of Tesla’s life into roughly an hour.
All in all, then I found 12 Million Volts to be an engaging and entertaining show. Given that it was mainly set in the late 1800s/early 1900s The Space felt just right as a performance space. The cast were extremely energetic and very committed not only to the show but in supporting each other in the performance, which made the entire production feel nice and relaxed and meant I could concentrate on learning all about the man himself. Overall a very enjoyable production delivered by a first rate cast.
Review by Terry Eastham
Formed in early 2016, The Outbound Project are a theatre company dedicated to creating exciting highly visual new work. Company members have worked with companies such as Gecko, Birmingham Stage, Tall Stories, Pub Corner Poets, Magic Maverick and Theatre Temoin. The Outbound Project are also members of New Diorama’s Graduate emerging companies scheme. After winning the Les Enfants Terribles Partnership award in association with Greenwich Theatre in 2016 with their debut show THE MISSION, The Outbound Project have been working on their new show 12 MILLION VOLTS as a co-production with Marine Theatre made with additional support from Arts Council England.
The Outbound Project presents
12 MILLION VOLTS
Directed by Chris Yarnell
Devised and created by the company
Design by Stella Backman
Jordan Turner, Lucy Bishop, Gordon Millar, Martin Chime
AWARD-WINNING THEATRE COMPANY PRESENT
12 MILLION VOLTS
(Co-Produced by Marine Theatre – with support from Arts Council England)
At The Space Arts Centre, LONDON