Just the Tonic at the Tron
Aug 6-14, 16-28 (17.00)
‘Easter Eggs’, in modern parlance, are hidden delights which add layers and meaning to the central narrative, within computer games. Players only find if they really want to seek them out, if this particular computer game is ‘just your thing’. Sitting on the train back to Fife after a full days reviewing, I glanced over my notes for Erynn Tett’s masterful hour long set of surreal one liners and audience based market research, and found myself presented with Easter eggs by the bucketload.
The basement of the Tron holds a special place in my heart. It was here that I first saw Mick Ferry floor a multinational audience of drunks, tourists, and steamers with his working mans club act of untouchable class. It was also where I found myself in a heckling match with Doug Stanhope, in front of my ex-girlfriend and her new fiancé. I am no stranger to a breadth of emotional responses within this particular steamy comedy dungeon. This perhaps prepared me for the fabulously idiosyncratic, often challenging, but never less than captivating hour of truly original material I ‘experienced’ at the hands of a performer who segued between the delivery of Steven Wright, a sad sack, awkward and incredibly spectrumy one-liner master from the states, physical comedy with all the precision awkwardness of Emo Philips, and a corporate automaton who flummoxes the participants in the ‘feedback’ sessions by using ratings analogies which, whilst obtuse, were still more instantly fathomable than around 50% of the material delivered as outright comedy.
Make no mistake, the one-liners in this set veer from odd, to plain surreal. Topics covered include cocky geraniums, insecure chameleons, and car parks in deep denial of their true nature. If this sounds like polarising material, Tett herself confirms so, highlighting that she ‘broke-up a family’ last week, when it came to the market research sections of her show. Audience participation is gentle, though compulsory, and it was genuinely intriguing in such a small crowd to see how audience members responded to the opinions of others, and manipulation via the previously described bizarre & opaque ratings frameworks & KPI measures which each audience member was huckled into using to validate their own opinions on the show so far. I for one was enthralled.
It is not only the originality of the material which makes this show a triumph, it is Tett’s commitment to character, and clowning prowess, which truly draws you in. It constantly feels close to car crash territory, and yet this is actually a superbly structured piece of art which Richard Gadd would be proud of. Another of the Bearpit Podcast alumni, Mat Ewins, came to mind whenever the audio visual aids popped in to robotically communicate that we were entering ‘review’ phase. The attention to detail in every area was meticulous.
If this all feels a bit much for you, then it quite possibly would be. This is not a show for everyone, and in committing so fully to that Erryn Tett has created an hour of performance which is funny, of it’s time, and bitingly satirical. It also allows Tett to deliver a show which achieves precisely what it subtly hopes to achieve in skewering the onslaught of algorithms omnipresent in our daily lives, dumbing down, and homogenising tastes, to the N’th degree.
Throughout the show, we are presented with feedback from previous audiences, one notable quote from an audience member halfway through a previous set was “I don’t know what the fuck is going on, but I’m having a nice time”. One of todays crowd was bold enough, when asked, to state that he would recommend this show to precisely 93% of his friends. I can only feel sorry for those in his circle considered to be the unadventurous 7%.
Compulsive viewing of the highest order, and given that the performance I watched was her second preview, this award worthy hour of stand up/come performance art/come interactive theatre is likely to yet hit its true stride. Get down to see it at the Tron before the 5 star reviews start flooding in, and the nominations start stacking up.