Whalley Range All Stars, Head Quarters

Review in Issue 13-1 | Spring 2001

In the venerable tradition of circus and fairground sidebooths, Whalley Range All Stars have created an intimate piece of theatre for ten people that lasts ten minutes – not a minute each, as the Master of Ceremonies explains to the waiting theatregoers, but a full ten minutes for everyone to share together. The company has constructed a portable theatre space for the show that references those end-of-the-pier funny photo wooden cut-outs, transforming the most sensible citizen into a grinning head above a static body.

The show begins even before the audience is let in, with those at the front of the queue examined and measured to make sure that their heads are suitably balanced. One of the joys of seeing the piece is to witness the audience nodding solemnly as they are taken through the health and safety measures.

Once inside the booth, we are treated to a participatory performance that gently teases and toys with notions of passivity – be that the passivity of the theatre-goer, hospital patient or young child. We are taken into a world where we are at the mercy of our guardians and have no choice but to trust that they will look after us. It is a simple idea, well executed, that has universal appeal – the sample audience that shared my sitting ranged from ages eight to eighty and all came out looking equally pleased with the experience.

The only downside was the placing of the booth. I had previously seen the show in the Pavilion Gardens in Brighton, a perfect pitch. This time it was in a crowded foyer next to a live jazz band. This is not the first time that I have found myself wishing that street arts and performance in public spaces could be placed appropriately so that they can be appreciated properly – rather than put in the busiest spot regardless.

Presenting Artists

National Theatre Foyer

Date Seen
  1. Jan 2001

This article in the magazine

Issue 13-1
p. 25