Second Spectacle




Optik performed in London in February with their first piece One Spectacle, and returned a month later with Second Spectacle. As the titles suggest both shows are companion pieces, staking the company’s claim to its own distinctive style.

The work is an essay in theatrical style – a formidable presumption. Second Spectacle concerns itself with narrative. Following Godard, the piece could well be titled ‘fragments of a performance’ as there is no smooth dramatic progression. One story dominates, that of the disappearance of three Wellsian type scientists at the beginning of the century or thereabouts. They eventually all turn up for a reunion in some post-industrial landscape that could pass for a jungle, but is much more likely to be the now derelict film set from some long forgotten tribal movie.

Filmic references seem very important, though none are specific – this is not ‘spoof-theatre’. More a question of spectacle mingling with analysis, to borrow once again from Godard. The overall style of Second Spectacle reminded me a lot of his early films, in its use of contrast, concreteness and ambiguity.

The opening scene has three ‘scientists’ in their underwear set off on a voyage through time to the lament of the crumphorn, played live. A sung chorus ‘Is there anybody there’ is delivered with nicely inappropriate Edwardian gusto. Music plays a key role throughout, nearly all live, except for a ten-minute computer generated tape sequence. There is a wide range, from soft rock love ballad to German lieder.

It is the approach to humour that gives the work its particular ‘Optik’ flavour. Highly economic, underplayed, it is always deftly timed. A young man sits on his suitcase, stranded on the stage: the archetypal traveller, sales rep and tourist rolled into one. To the strains of the lushest of pulp emotion, sung and played by the two musicians (‘love is such sweet pleasure..’) the non-hero eats his snack, takes a photo or two and generally turns inertia into something with a strangely riveting kind of significance.