Obfuscation (3 stars)

This article is from 2017


Muddying speech in boardroom meltdown

First performed in a rented truck, New York duo Human Head Performance Group's Obfuscation is, as the title would suggest, a look at how corporate speak is deployed in order to improve communication skills, without actively saying anything meaningful at all. It couldn't be more timely, in these days of 'fake news' and the chilling rise of alt-right platforms.

Two speakers, Sandy (Jean Ann Douglass) and Paul (Eric John Meyer) all beaming cult leader smiles and extended applause, are wrestling with their own paranoia and unspoken desires.

Underneath the audience's chairs are alternative names for everyone. Douglass and Meyer toy with audience involvement, handing out pens and paper and asking them to respond to some exercises, but not explaining what to do. A subplot emerges, involving affairs, cassettes, drug paraphernalia and the secret police. It's very funny, and an intelligent skewering of industry team building. The pair are superb, and calmly unsettling, but the piece is far too short to expound on those ideas.

Nonetheless, it's an inspired performance which proves the adage: say something with enough confidence and people may start to believe it – even if you're not sure what it is you are saying. Just ask a certain bewigged American politician.

theSpace @ Jury's Inn, until 26 Aug, 2.15pm, £7 (£5).


  • 3 stars

Audiences are invited to a seminar on how to use the words that people want to hear, whether its your boss or the secret police.