In their latest show, Gob Squad present a rare exhibit: “a live show with real children”, offering us a glimpse into a mirror-lined container where their assorted kids are pushed into fast forward. Like reverse Peter Pans, these seven children grow up all too fast, graduating from childhood to adolescence to motorbike-buying mid-life crisis in the space of an hour. Instructed by an eerily clinical overhead voice, the compelling youngsters smear on lipstick, don fake beards and pencil on wrinkles in an unsettling take on the childish tradition of dressing up, occasionally pausing in their accelerated growth to fix us with piercing stares.
The mirrors of Gob Squad’s arresting design are everything. Pointing to the natural human impulse for vanity and self-reflection, they allow the young performers to pose and preen, to look forwards and backwards at their younger and older selves, to reflect on the meaning of “I” and how that changes as we age. The ambition of Gob Squad’s creation becomes clear as video footage of the children at earlier stages of their lives is projected onto screens at the side of the stage, generating poignant moments as they each confront their younger selves with amusement and discomfort. As one boy sadly says, “this is not me”.
But as even the emotionless voice of authority melts away, the possibility arises that there might be nothing more than the mirror
Together with playful interrogations of youth, aging and self-identity, not to mention a knowing if sometimes irritatingly smug awareness of the theatrical conventions they rip up, Gob Squad attempt to nudge at even bigger concerns. With the knowledge that we are all, as the kids bluntly put it, “speeding towards death”, the question of who if anyone is watching becomes an urgent one. But as even the emotionless voice of authority melts away, the possibility arises that there might be nothing more than the mirror – no more meaning to life than our own reflection staring back at us. Despite a concluding hint of optimism, it is this emptiness that dully persists as the lights come up.
*** (3 stars)
Runs until 30th June