Here at the Family Stage, we kicked off the Easter holidays with a trip to the Unicorn Theatre. Mummy thought this was a very clever plan, as we needed something to kill an afternoon before we headed off on holidays. The Show In Which Hopefully Nothing Happens sounded like just the ticket. A nice calm show which would give Mrs Mummy the chance for a post-packing nap and would not over-stimulate the already excited munchkins. Since we planned on driving straight to the airport afterwards, Mummy wouldn’t have time to type up a review, but presumably there would be nothing to write about if nothing was going to happen……
And indeed nothing happened. At least, not anything that was easy to explain. Mummy did not bemoan the lack of time to write her review that weekend, for she was lost for words. With the Easter holidays at an end, she thinks now is the time to try and find them. “Surreal” is certainly one word. If pushed for more, Mummy would suggest that this felt rather like Monty Python for children. (Mummy has subsequently consulted the Theater Artemis website and can’t decide if she is feeling smug or mildly irritated that this is precisely the description they use to describe it themselves!)
So what does actually happen? The basic premise is simple. Riad Ritchie is an actor who just wants to perform but finds his every endeavour thwarted by Nigel Barrett, a jobsworth security guard who is tasked with securing the stage. For the adults of the audience, the early humour is provided by Nigel’s deadpan delivery. Everybody has felt the frustration of encountering a Nigel and his “computer says no” attitude. Whilst some of this may be lost on the kids, they cannot fail to be entertained by Riad’s increasingly dramatic (in more than one sense of the word) attempts to get past Nigel.
A softening of Nigel’s stance finally sees Riad take centre stage, accompanied by a plastic turtle. Which turns out to be one of the less bonkers elements of a show that descends into utter madness. Without wishing to give away everything (even if I could find the words) the surreal second half sees Nigel and Riad trapped in an endless loop of “moments” which culminate in Nigel (literally) losing himself and the rest of the room losing the plot of a play that questions its own existence. And, for no apparent reason, Nigel wearing a coffee pot on his head.
The Show in Which Hopefully Nothing Happens is certainly an experience. And one that is liable to leave the viewer both amused and confused. The Unicorn Theatre recommends it for ages 6 to 10 but Mummy feels that it would probably be better appreciated by those towards the top end of that bracket. (Again, Mummy notes that her view is corroborated by Theater Artemis’ website, which suggests 8+). Not least because a large part of the comedy comes from a play on words that only really works for audience members who are able to read. Younger children also tend to be far more concrete in their thinking, making very abstract comedy difficult for them to grasp. As the show became more and more absurd, Crotchet (7) became increasingly baffled. That’s not to say that younger children won’t enjoy it. Particularly the more slapstick elements. But if you do take very small humans (or larger small people who tend towards the literal), be prepared for a barrage of questions to which you have no answer. Although maybe you’re not supposed to……
So has Mummy finally managed to find some deep and meaningful concluding words to sum up this show? Words, yes. Depth and meaning debatable. In this production, writer and director Jetse Batelaan has managed to put together something spectacularly silly that may have a deeper meaning or may just be making fun of those who seek something deep within the silliness when they should be enjoying the moment. Which paradoxically might be the deeper meaning for which they shouldn’t search. Mummy’s head hurts just thinking about it. And for that, she awards it a rating of raindrops, whiskers, kettles and mittens (aka four out of five of my favourite things).
The Show in Which Hopefully Nothing Happens is running at the Unicorn Theatre until 28 April 2019.