The Accident Did Not Take Place review at the Pleasance, Edinburgh – ‘clever questioning of truth’
Alongside Emma, Tilda and John is a different guest performer each day for this thrilling new show from YesYesNoNo. The guest’s job is to follow instructions: first, to re-enact a plane crash, then to act out a barrage of intense, probing prompts (“show me what you looked like when you were born,” a particularly impossible one).
The actor (Stella Reid in this performance) has to perform the plane crash scene again and again and again, each time told to make it more real – “really try to let us in” – like a ferocious public audition for a part Reid is never going to get.
Cameras and lighting are added. One iteration becomes a dance routine; in another the camera fixes on a cardboard mock-up of the stage. All these representations of one scene – one truth – and none of them real. Or all of them.
A frenzied second half sees the performer asked endless questions about themselves, a dizzying social media feed of non-stop demands. Those questions probe deeply for honesty, and actually show the opposite. Nothing Stella does on stage can be true (can it?) because she’s never not performing.
It’s punishing at times and ridiculous at others, but every moment is mesmerising, forcing us to confront the minute details of each iteration of every scene, and question the foundations of performance – in real life, online – itself.
While it seems to say more about theatre than it does, as marketed, about post-truth news, on its own terms it dazzles, especially in one unimpeachably true moment when Reid embraces Emma tightly in a haze of sound and light. You can’t fake a hug.
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