The Object Lesson
Genius absurdist theatre by American performance artist Geoff Sobelle at Edinburgh Festival Fringe
This article is from 2014.
In our society of hyper-consumption and digitisation it can be easy to lose the emotional connection which human beings have always had with the objects they have made, chosen or been given. In American performance artist Geoff Sobelle's delightful piece The Object Lesson, an astonishing array of objects, ranging from a letter to large pieces of furniture, is combined with the theatre maker's extraordinary ingenuity and the most benign form of audience participation.
The result is a beautifully humorous and gently touching work in which narratives of human relations are recalled and re-enacted with an astonishing attention to detail. Sobelle uses, for the most part, defiantly analogue technologies – such as a tape recorder and a gramophone player – to extraordinary theatrical effect.
The American is both a disarmingly amiable performer and an impressive stage magician. His seemingly chaotic set, all cardboard boxes and an array of objects in apparent disorder, proves to be deceptively versatile. When, after selecting an audience member (of course, pretty, young and female) as his dinner date, he reveals, in moments, a table, a chandelier and two chairs (albeit that his is, early cinema comedy-style, an inappropriately bouncy garden lounger).
It would be a crime to give away the details of the date. Suffice it to say, it involves ice skates, dancing and a lettuce (but don't tell the Health and Safety Executive).
As the audience sits within his set, Sobelle's aesthetic seems like a gorgeous amalgam of Eugène Ionesco, Jacques Lecoq, Harold Lloyd and Herman Melville. A work of wonderful absurdism, technical genius and, ultimately, breathtaking illusionism, The Object Lesson is a brilliantly original, absolutely unmissable piece of Fringe theatre.
Summerhall, 560 1581, until 24 Aug (not 13 & 20), £14 (£12).