Doppelgängster’s Cold War

Doppelgängster is Tobias Manderson-Galvin and Dr Tom Payne – a lecturer in performance at Sheffield Hallam University. Music for this production was provided by Jules Pascoe.

According to the programme, the ‘Cold War’ of the title is actually the war on climate change. In the programme Dr Payne comments, ‘Like a gaggle of smokers hanging idly in the doorway of a dingy bar, we’ve taken our collective complacency as a sign that all will be ok. Climate change is no longer a slow cancer but a full-blown disease ravaging the corpus of the earth.’

But this is experimental theatre so it isn’t made clear that this is the theme of the piece. The two performers engage in a disjointed conversation, trading anecdotes about fear, paranoia and death, occasionally doing so in song. They talk about childhood fears, state executions, being awake during surgery, inherited trauma. One very disturbing part described an on-line beheading video. 

The audience is mainly on the outside of the performance – at times feeling as though it is eavesdropping on a private conversation. Indeed, the alienation is enhanced by the fact that for the first part of the performance both performers wear dark glasses and Dr Payne also wears a full expressionless head mask which actually muffles his voice a little.

There is background noise all through the performance and occasional loud music which futher alienates the audience. At one point Dr Payne gave each member of the audience a piece of ice. It presumably symbolised the melting ice caps, but no confirmation or explanation followed. 

In a strange Theatre of the Absurd section, a member of the audience was brought into the performance, sat on a chair, dressed in a cloak and with a bowl of crushed ice. Then his head was covered with a black pillow case. The performance continued for some time after that with him just sitting there, uncomfortably resonant of the beheading reference from earlier. When the pillowcase was removed, they commented that ‘it hadn’t worked’ as it was the same guy. He said afterwards that he felt quite uncomfortable until his head was covered, but then felt oddly peaceful.

This is a difficult piece to review as reactions to it will be personal and different for each observer. Some audience members said it was weird, others that it was clever. It was never boring, even if some of the time it seemed as though the performers were as bemused as their audience. 

Doppelgängster’s Cold War continues at The Local Theatre from 9 to 11 May starting at 7.30pm.

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