Total Immediate Collective Imminent Terrestrial Salvation (4 stars)

This article is from 2019

Total Immediate Collective Imminent Terrestrial Salvation

credit: Eoin Carey

Tricky flickering between pages and stages

Arranged in a circle around the performers, the audience in Tim Crouch's new show for the Edinburgh International Festival are invited to read from a book that serves as both script and a graphic novel. The actors describe the activity of a cult in the last days before the end of the world; they read from the cult's sacred text, and also appear in the book themselves. The whole thing is permeated by the sense that the conversations are predetermined by the cult's leader.

While many theatremakers are integrating film into their dramaturgy, Crouch is moving in the other direction: this production introduces the solitary pleasure of reading to the communal experience of theatre. The actors do not look like the illustrations of the characters that they play, and the audiences are invited to perform parts of the script. The sense of inevitability, that classic tragic quality, is both invoked and mocked. When Crouch comes on stage at the end – as both director and actor – his twin roles are questioned and, representing the cult leader, he slyly comments on scientific, theatrical and religious models of salvation and belief.

Always subverting and expanding theatre's format, Crouch plays with expectations and challenges the traditional structure of the scripted play by emphasising the role of the audience in creating its meaning. Yet beneath this fascination with formal experimentation, Total Immediate Collective Imminent Terrestrial Salvation still has a strong message and emotive power: it's a cerebral, thoughtful comment on how truth can be manufactured, and how even human emotion can be erased by a powerful enough conviction.

The Studio at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre, until 25 Aug (not 19, 21), times vary, £20.

Total Immediate Collective Imminent Terrestrial Salvation

  • 4 stars

A new play by Tim Crouch about a cult leader.