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Oog review at Jacksons Lane, London – ‘slippery and impenetrable’

Lane, London Photo: Maria Falconer Al Seed in Oog at Jacksons Lane, London Photo: Maria Falconer
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Oog, a wordless exploration of shell-shock created and performed by Al Seed, started life at the erstwhile Arches in Glasgow in 2014 and, after a Scottish tour, comes to Jacksons Lane as part of the London International Mime Festival. 

Seed sits in a chair dressed like a character from Mad Max – oversized overcoat, daubed with paint and muck, yellowish like crusty chamois leather. His black and white make up is smeared across his face. Slowly, increasingly, he jolts. Some of his gestures are in time with Guy Veale’s haunting, growing soundscape, some are not.

Although the programme notes state that Seed is playing a shell-shocked soldier, locked in a cellar after a war, this is neither clear from his costume nor from the sparse set: there is only a ladder and a chair. 

Often the quivering movements Seed makes are difficult to interpret, but in the abstract forms there are some shapes to latch onto – like the shooting of a gun, or the scuttling of a spider. The rest is up for up to each viewer to make sense of.

Alberto Santos Bellido’s lighting is the show’s particular strength. Spots angled upwards and swathes of haze make a flat, white sheet of light over Seed’s head. 

There’s clearly skill here, especially when Seed flickers like an old silent movie. But it would benefit from a smaller space, in which the whites of Seed’s eyes and the details of each contortion would be visible. The precision is diluted by distance, and meaning gets lost in the thickening haze. 

 

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Verdict
A slippery, often impenetrable piece of physical theatre exploring the mind of a shell-shocked soldier.
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