Wilting in Reverse
A disembodied voice backstage stumbles its way through a welcome to the show, inadvertently reading out the stage directions, backtracking on itself, apologising. Everyone laughs in the dark even before they have seen a thing. What then follows is a unique hour of shifting genres and stories where a dank, black-box cave is transported to a magical, indeterminate something somewhere else.
Stuart Bowden emerges muffled in a balaclava under a sheet, all of which he takes his time in removing. By the time he stands before us with face revealed, he has unveiled the concept of the show, namely that with audience’s help he will tell the story of a futuristic him who has died. In narrating his achievements in reverse he will bring himself back to life as he becomes younger.
It is a piece of eccentric, comic storytelling on the surface, a serious piece of theatremaking underneath, where Bowden sings whimsical songs, looping voice and beats, people are assigned lengthy roles, there is dance and slapstick, and even Jackanory-like passages.
There is also metatheatre, comedy deconstruction and handing the script to an audience member – all good and thoughtful stuff in line with many other practitioners at the moment. What raises Wilting in Reverse many notches up is the way Bowden establishes trust between performer and audience, between what is scripted and what is actually experienced.