The tone was set for my viewing of the performance last night when I was waiting in the cafe at the lakeside arts centre beforehand. Sat with a group of friends we were approached by a man, surreptitiously hiding a bottle of cider under his jumper, asking us if we had any spare change. When we refused he looked pointedly at me and asked, ‘what’s live spelt backwards?’ I stuttering, and nervously learning away from him, as by this point his face was pretty close to mine, couldn’t work out this crazy anagram in my state. ‘Evil’ he said, with menace. ‘What’s lived spelt backwards?’ He then asked, I was more prepared this time and came back with ‘Devil?’ ‘Yeah, exactly, yeah,’ this madman replied as if this was some sort of conclusion to our bizarre conversation, and he left.
By coincidence, Zero toyed with themes of morality and humanity. Directed by Matt Aston it was set 20 years in the future, in a Guantanamo Bay type camp. Not always easy watching; Zero dealt with some very heavy-duty ideas of torture and the abuse of power, as well as the paranoia surrounding terrorism. However depressing the subject, the play was lightened considerably by moments of humour. The dialect of the rough and awkward Tom, played by Daniel Hoffman-Gill who followed virtually every sentence he spoke in his broad Nottingham accent with an inane ‘isn’t it?’ provided some relief from the stern tones of the soldiers and Major Chaudry. Although necessary to prevent an overwhelmed audience from topping themselves post performance, the use of humour was confusing. The production was full on, an emotional onslaught, not the kind of play you’d take you’re grandparents to, but this can only be a testament to the talent of the actors given the plot.
It was a small scale production, with only five members of the cast and a set scenery throughout including one uncomfortable looking hanging device which several characters hung from at various parts of the play. The space was used creatively and it was a powerful show, the limitations and restrains of the setting only adding to the intensity.
Although I wouldn’t say I enjoyed the play, I am able to say in appreciated it as theatre, I guess knowing I wouldn’t be able to handle a drunk asking me for money, I shouldn’t have gone to see a play about torture.