Review: [insert slogan here] by YESYESNONO

Car advert sparks emotional response for performer, but not for audience

★★★
theatre review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
31944 large
[insert slogan here]
Published 08 Aug 2018

Do car adverts generate emotional responses? According to Sam Ward, they do. None more so that an old Volvo ad, shot on the beach where he spent his childhood summer holidays. [insert slogan here] is a love letter to this memory and an attempt to create one of his own with just as much impact.

But despite Ward’s best efforts, this mission is doomed to failure, because there is little in this performance to help the audience grasp where such advertorial nostalgia stems from. [insert slogan here] is disconnected, an unexplained, window into Ward’s past.

As per the distinctive style of Ward's company, YESYESNONO, the show is full of personal touches and interactive elements where Ward excels. By calling audience members onto stage, Ward invites them in, putting each one at ease with a menial task and some gentle patter. Discussions about being cool, or the notion of home, are an opportunity for self-reflection. Each is fully embraced by those involved. But such intimate conversations lose the audience as a whole – the fourth wall is too inflexible to allow the masses in.

The interim commercials themselves are equally fractured. Conan the Librarian’s video, while visually intriguing, bears little resemblance to Ward’s words—delivered with a preacher’s fervour—or to Ola Rae’s electronica soundscape. Each aspect fights against the other rather than gelling.

[insert slogan here] is executed with Ward’s renowned expertise. Much like his beloved Volvo, though, the engineering is sound, but the heart is missing.