Review: War & Peace by Gob Squad. Nottingham Playhouse. NEAT16

four half

From the perspective of a High Society Russian salon several members of the audience are taken on stage by one of the four cast members of Gob Squad and formerly introduced to the audience of their production called War & Peace. This reviewer happens to be one of those people and like the cast members themselves also happens to be a former graduate of Nottingham Trent University’s former BA Creative Arts (hons) course.

Yes, the show is about Tolstoy’s epic War & Peace but never a traditional telling – more an outlandish and often thought provoking investigation into the characters in the book. This book was written more than a century and a half ago and has become part of our history; or is that mainly his-tory – the world written from the male perspective? The piece is playful and part improvised and looks too at our modern day notions of freedom, privilege and safety.

Gob Squad (Sean Patten, Sharon Smith, Sarah Thom and Simon Will) delve into these subjects and lots more with the help of four members of the audience and some deliciously roving camera work projecting images of the collective and their, round the table conversations, on to the main stage.

The work that unfolds has a fun degree of unpredictability as the four audience members are cheekily and intellectually brought into the conversation throughout the piece. With Gob Squad you never quite know where the performance is going to lead and that is part of the theatrical intrigue – part of the daft yet delightfully deep diversion.

A daft yet delightfully deep diversion.

With them we are challenged to consider War with its background leaders and mass fatalities both from Tolstoy’s historical novel and from a modern perspective in the warring hot spots in our real world today. The discussion is brought to life with projections, crazy costumes and a fashion parade of characters from Tolstoy’s novel are introduced to the audience with the focus on Napoleon and the Russian Tzar. The side of humanity and an argument for Peace is examined (again with great fun) through the novel’s best loved character Pierre Bezukhov and we find three diverse versions of this character vying for top billing on the Nottingham Playhouse stage and the stage of literary figures.

Gob Squad are an amazing company of performance artists and offer up such an engaging vision of their work. Very often there are personal disclosures from the company members and one cannot feel but drawn into matters of life and death and the survival of humankind in a world that isn’t always kind. Reality and fiction blur in this War & Peace. One comes away from the event with a celebratory feeling that we are alive today and involved in something bigger than the world’s largest page turner. Strangely enough we have links as human beings to the novel even if we haven’t read it.

War & Peace by Gob Squad is an intriguing and fun work of Live Art that is perfect for the this year’s NEAT16.

Reviewer: Phil Lowe

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