Instructions For A Better Life

Uncanny Theatre
The Capstone Theatre
24th October 2013

Reviewed by Joe Coventry

Da Da meets Blue Peter

Uncanny Theatre are a group of three players who performed incognito in this production, challenging conventional wisdom, perception and stereotyping. It was a quirky night, one relying on old analogue and manual technologies, which was a nice change from the digital sensibilities now enveloping the stage.

Not many shows begin with the audience asked to convene in the entrance foyer for instructions on how to blow up a balloon, just right, or when to use it later on. The young crowd loved it. Enter then, Lucky Man, (Cheers), 13, (Boos) and Natalie/Susan. As the former she joined in with the two men enacting out scenes about social acclamation or stigmatisation; as the latter reporting on how ingrained perceptions can be taken for granted.

Superstitions are at the heart of it all. So, the Four Leaf Clover and always winning the toss of a coin are naturally associated with Lucky Man. Being born on that most miserable of Fridays, black cats, opening an umbrella inside the house or putting shoes on a table are the natural territory of the number 13.

It is an ill wind that Lucky Man has to save the world from. puppetry, ropes and an umbrella used by a woman battling the elements, front a slide projector where animation and basic graphics indicate the plot. He is sent to the stars, only to crash back through the scrolling clouds behind him. His falling antics are hilarious, as the freebie balloons come into play, but he fails however, as his double-headed coin shows him up for the fraudster that he is.

13 meanwhile, through some inconclusive shadow puppetry, is blamed for everything and after a nonsensical singalong, is being hunted by the system, even though there is never anything finite of which to accuse him. Besides, TV reportage and supposition have already branded him guilty.

So, what is the message here?

Instructions For A Better Life, with its multi-tasking cast, low tech props and lighting, simple characterisations and clever audience participation made this questioning sixty minute one night stand a worthwhile night out. Peruse those tea leaves to find out where you can see this again.

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