Writers and Directors: Maxwell Sly and Grace Scott
TR33 by The Ordinary People is part of Camden Fringe. Its most accessible component is its video compilation consisting of segments of old programmes charting the rise of communications technology. We’re reminded of the thrill of those first calculators and personal computers. It’s a well-put-together collage, but is shown on a disappointingly small screen, so it’s often hard to see.
Grace Scott sits throughout the show at a desk in the corner, alternately tapping on a keyboard and intoning solemn phrases. When the other performer, mime artist Maxwell Sly, first emerges, he has a sack over his head. Thrilling electronic music, possibly Vangelis’s Antartica, gives a sense of promise. The computer screen is showing something about how plant seeds develop. Sly begins a long sequences of repetitive movements. Is he a seed?
Possibly not, as once he uncovers his head, he sits at a table and begins to play chess. Who or what he represents remains baffling throughout the show. For the most part, his expression is one of intense wonder and he contantly makes excited noises. This, together with attempts to engage the audience with paper, flower pots and glove puppets, gives him the air of a demented children’s entertainer.
Scott at least makes clear an outline structure to the show. It follows the four parts of a tree – roots, trunk, branches and leaves. Probably most of us have come across the idea of mycelium, the tiny fungal threads that allow trees to communicate with each other. In this show, billed as ‘highly interactive’, the mycelium is represented by a string of battery operated lights. Sly’s figure excitedly clambers into the audience, inviting us to hold onto a bit. When he switches the lights on we become a network! In the background the video compilation talks of the development of the web.
Later we are invited to throw pages torn from a book into a wastepaper basket. From behind her desk, Scott throws paper airplanes. When Apple is mentioned, Sly’s figure bites into a real apple.
He subsequently unearths a large cardboard box, pulling out a strange assortment of items. Single shoes represent the New York shoe store which was taken over by a tech company in order to show case an early computer. Balloons are inflated and released. There are little party hats.
TR33 becomes marginally more coherent when it attempts to trace the way we are now tracked and traced from the moment of birth. But its sixty minutes are more baffling than immersive.
Runs until 17 August 2022
The Camden Fringe runs from 1-28 August 2022