Staging Wittgenstein (4 stars)

This article is from 2017

Staging Wittgenstein

credit: Blair Simmons

Popping populist theatre

Austrian-British philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein's radical 'Sprachspiel' (language games) are explored here in creator and director Blair Simmons' playful yet conceptual piece of physical theatre.

Wittgenstein proposed that language and actions were woven together, and that 'the limits of my language mean the limits of my world'. To that end, Simmons, acting as both indulgent mother figure and sadistic ringmaster, inflates a whole floor full of white balloons of different shapes and sizes, creating a liminal space, where she presides over two performers, Annie Hagg and Roxanna Kadyrova.

The two women tentatively get into a life-size balloon each. Obviously, it's hilarious to watch two women bounce like babies, or stick their heads out like newly hatched birds, but the duo are more in the vein of the bouffon than clown, more disturbing. In Simmons' hands, even balloons are othered. The suspense of whether the massive full-size balloons will pop is almost unbearable at times.

Quotes from Wittgenstein are distributed among the audience, yet there is a William Burroughs' cut-up technique to the speech, sometimes garbled as though underwater, and Hagg and Kadyrova test their physicality in highly unexpected ways – joyfully, fetishistically and as living, breathing sculptures, groping towards a new understanding of each other and their new latex skins.

Silly, oddly haunting and beautiful (the shadowplay creating body distortions look lovely and animalistic), Staging Wittgenstein is an entirely unexpected, life-affirming microcosm of the bodies we inhabit, and can also inhibit.

C, until 28 Aug (not 23), 7.40pm, £11.50 (£8.50).

Staging Wittgenstein

  • 4 stars

A celebration of language from inside human-size latex balloons.