Audience participation can be an uneven affair, with the unlucky/lucky (delete as appropriate) few plucked arbitrarily from the crowd. That the whole audience is involved in this performance is thanks to biology as well as the provision of heart rate monitors for each audience member. This technology allows the discussion of the human heartbeat to take on an immediacy that would be lost by a simple plea to try and imagine the organ pumping away inside our chest. Although some of the audience struggle to spot their number- projected as it is on to a shed- it draws the viewer into the tale right from the outset. And that tale of Gavin’s introspection, told by Rhys Lawton (assisted by two puppeteers: Richard Hay and Sarah Griffin), is one of urgent poignancy.
Down in the titular Gavin’s shed, we are asked to contemplate the nature of what we do with our limited time on earth. Time here is dealt with by the metric of heartbeats, allowing for frequent returns to the numbers ticking away on the shed representing the audience’s individual heartbeats. Each time that attention is brought to these numbers it reiterates the central theme of the show, an examination of mortality. The show questions whether the remorseless beating of the heart should spark us to seize the day and ‘live in the moment’ or to seek a more profound lasting existence. The rant against the internet’s frequent, trite handling of this question is a highlight. It would be churlish to expect this particular thread to resolve itself with a definitive answer on how to live one’s life. Therefore it is justified that the performance shies away from this particularly knotty issue and instead focusses on the inner torment of the main character.
The performance is actually determined in part by the vagaries of the audience’s heartbeats, lending an air of spontaneity to an already upbeat performance. One small gripe is that this leads to a sense that we may have missed out on something down the other fork in the road. This, however, may be to miss the point that in life we can’t always determine our fate and perhaps we should embrace this. So I’ll let that go.
SharkLegs Theatre Company were the winners of this year’s Les Enfants Terribles award that supports an upcoming company in their endeavours to bring a show to the Fringe. Its efforts are certainly worthwhile if they are to continue helping out bring shows of this calibre to the festival. The show is invigorating yet it does also feel a little hollow in its handling of such weighty existential issues. This can be forgiven by its innovative staging and interactive elements that take advantage of technology in a lo-fi way to enhance the spectacle’s emotional resonance.
image: provided by production