Staging Wittgenstein

theatre review | Read in About 2 minutes
31254 large
Staging Wittgenstein
Published 11 Aug 2017

For 45 minutes, two people try to get themselves inside giant, human-sized balloons while speaking gibberish and disordered language. Sometimes they succeed, sometimes the balloons burst. That's it.

According to its programme listing, the point of this piece is to "explore and celebrate" language. Re-ordering the words in the balloons' instructions for inflation only barely does this. People making noises at each other while fighting to wrap themselves in broken balloons certainly does not.

The production is improvisational at its core due to the constant potential for explosions, though there are two clear sections of the show. Within these sections, anything can happen, but due to the lack of comprehensible language, the stakes are low for the performers – it's impossible for the audience to tell if they are making mistakes or getting it spot on. There are similarities to improv exercises in the second part, but it largely feels like the performers are mucking about.

An on-stage assistant supplies additional balloons as needed and helps with the hoover required to inflate these monstrosities. She is cold and functional, though her occasional laughter betrays an inconsistent professionalism.

Despite the baffling lack of purpose to this work, there are moments that are genuinely funny. The performers are physically adept and create some good physical comedy along the way. And someone bouncing around the stage, with only their silver, swimming-capped head showing, is a hilarious image. But there's little else of merit in this performance art piece.