Fluxx, Night, London

Review in Issue 21-2 | Summer 2009

The first thing to say is that it isn’t fair to review an eighteenth part of a performance, and Night, London happened over eighteen separate and different nights – the byline for the event being: ‘Who says the show has to stay the same every night?’ Add to that the difficulty of reviewing improvised work... Yet a suggestion of the whole can at least be intimated by the experience of having seen Show Fifteen.

What made me want to see the show? The title, which I thought contained lots of potential and energy; the list of interesting collaborators; and the ambition of creating a long work in this way, with a number of consistent characters building up an improvised story over consecutive nights.

The same things which tend to bother me in watching (or directing, or taking part in) improvised work were all present: a lack of real vigour, prompted I think by performers without the support of enough certainty; a dipping and bucking energy, often unharnessed; a tendency towards the mundane, the odd, and the melodramatic.

I personally enjoy improvisation much more when I understand the rules. In Night, London there was clearly a structure, but the audience was not privy to it. Therefore, the effort of the performers to ‘work with something’ was not as satisfying to watch, while their creativity was not, perhaps, fully appreciated because we didn’t know how much was predetermined.

In the after-show section, a workshop lead by guest director Chris Goode, there was a more playful sense of liveness; of ideas coming up in the moment and being allowed to breathe, such as a nicely judged exercise in which a performer delivered an improvised list of names. I was surprised to discover that the guest director’s only contribution was in this section, and although the piece itself is directed by Fluxx’s Chris Johnston, it would be interesting to know how the show itself could have been affected by more input from this exciting group of associated artists (a prestigious list which on other days featured John Wright of Told By An Idiot, and Mike Alfreds of Shared Experience).

While a website (www.nightlondontheshow.com) featuring character blogs, videos, and story updates allowed the audience to familiarise itself with what had gone before, the minutiae of invented lives could not produce a great sense of anticipation.

What I saw in Show Fifteen was a slice of ordinary existence, but without the fascination leant by reality, or the intensity of planned performance. But every night was different; and although this makes the work of a reviewer difficult, it is a positive for a performance which was trying out a number of brave experiments.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Mar 2009

This article in the magazine

Issue 21-2
p. 29