Went to East London on Friday to see the Clod Ensemble and their show Under Glass. I wasn't really sure what to expect from 'a collection of human beings contained in a series of glass jars, cabinets and test tubes', except that it would be different to what I had seen before.
I was not disappointed. Everything was different from the moment we arrived at the venue. Tucked in an alleyway, me and my friend couldn't find the place, until we noticed this massive wall painting indicating it. Duh.
There are lots of people outside having tea and cigarettes, who tell this is indeed the place we are looking for. It turns out that they actually were the cast having a break between two performances. Pretty chilled out!
Before the show starts, an usher makes an announcement: 'There will be moments of complete darkness. Please follow the ushers, who will tell you where to sit. When you have to move, the area you are moving to will be lit. Ushers might ask you to sit on the floor or crouch to ensure everyone can see, please follow their instructions.' I get quite excited. We are led to a rectangle of light and asked to sit on the floor.
Under Glass is made of eight individual pieces: eight characters, each in their own glass case (a test tube, a jam jar, rectangles, squares...), each prisoner of their own world and their own minds. Only one of them speaks, an older lady who talks to someone on the phone. She is one of those grannies who know everything that goes on in the village, spending her time hiding behind the curtains, looking out and calling her friends to share gossips. Her text is a poem by Alice Oswald, and it describes a disturbing place at the end of the world, where nothing is quite normal:
'so many names in this place not many of us left
living on the last we can find can you hear this
somebody out peering out not me noticed the least likely the very soul of respectability
eating something in the cemetery not rats I hope are you listening'
Each character is intermittently illuminated: the old woman, a shy girl, a big woman in water, a couple on the floor who look very much alike and who are confined to a small circular spacelike twins in a womb, a tall woman in a black victorian dress who spends most of her time looking at herself, an office worker stuck in his very small office, unable to stand up in it, a girl in a small jar, another girl lying on grass.
There is a bit of dance (in the shy girl for example, who like a wall flower is confined to a thin strip against a wall), some humour, a score made of strings and rumbles, and in the end it creates a very immersing and poetic experience.
After the show we went for vietnamese on Kingsland road and the police burst into the restaurant to arrest a man in the toilets. You gotta love London on nights like this.
More about the Clod Ensemble.
Review of Under Glass and image from the Guardian.