Writer & Director: Nathan Ellis
As per it’s description Work.txt is a show performed entirely by the audience, but until you experience it in person it’s quite difficult to imagine what that means. Upon entering the Cube in the Project Arts Centre you meet a sparse set; a pile of yellow painted jumbo jenga pieces, a printer, two mike stands, and a smoke machine, all sitting in front of a black projector screen backdrop with the words work.txt in the left hand corner. Everyone in the audience has presumably read the description of the show (or is accompanying someone who has read a description of the show) but it is still a room full of people who have very little idea of what to expect and who feel equally surprised and varyingly ill at ease when they find they are the ones responsible for the performance as the text begins to roll on the screen. It makes for a very unique experience; as an interactive art piece it is extremely enjoyable; though the beginning is relatively tense the longer that it goes on the more comfortable and connected the audience comes to feel as a group, to the point where at the end it feels that we could all clap each other on the back for a job well done – for work well completed.
The primary theme is an exploration of the concept of work, as it has always existed and seemingly will always exist, but with a particular focus on what it means in the current climate. There is a strong feeling that builds throughout the piece that we are trapped in a web of our own making, we are all the makers and maintainers of a reality that we’ve all agreed to participate in, where work is the primary part of life, despite many of us, maybe even most of us, not enjoying that. By speaking the words ourselves it is almost impossible not to feel connected to the text, but the script itself is full of the realities of day to day working life regardless. Returning to working in the office, the non-sensical nature of many jobs and salaries, the unfairness and disparity in the working world, the joy of completing a task, or more importantly the joy of anticipating completing a task, the satisfaction derived from repetition, the inability many of us have to be without distraction, the workification of art. It is engaging and thought-provoking, but above all it is fun. While the thoughts and feelings that are pulled to the surface might be uncomfortable or depressing, the participation aspect is novel and evokes a true feeling of connectivity that is rare to experience in a theatre setting and which offsets the bleakness of the topic nicely. Which makes the show a true mirror of life as we know it; trapped in a reality that we have created ourselves, forced to come face to face with our own unhappiness, but able to manage it with a smile on our faces so long as we are doing it together. With an added karaoke version of My Heart Will Go On thrown in the mix. A night to remember.
Runs until 23rd September 2023.