Currently touring their second show, this relatively young theatre company perform with the self-possession and liberation of a far more established troupe. Whilst Some People Talk About Violence follows the ever-expanding trend of transforming theatre from a passive activity to an interactive experience, Barrel Organ seek to challenge the actors as opposed to the audience. Following in the footsteps of their debut show, the four-strong cast are unaware which role they will undertake prior to starting the performance, as this is determined by envelopes handed out to audience members and returned in random order to the actors; a bold and innovative beginning which sets the tone of the night.
A loose plot is interwoven with what appear to be improv games which, at the time, seemingly bear no relation to the events taking place. Completely ridiculous in nature, these are some of the best moments of the night, where the energy levels spike and the actors’ ad-libbing talent ignites to create hilarious, quirky sections within the performance. However, despite their random and immaterial appearance, the ending features echoes of places, people and words conceived within the games, giving the earlier tomfoolery a chilling edge and exposing a clever depth to the show.
Watching the cast slip in and out of character is exhilarating and works perfectly in the small theatre space, quickly warming the audience to the actors through a sense of familiarity. The atmosphere is extremely relaxed with the cast straddling the line between chattily informal and theatrical with casual clothes and a laid-back manner. Combined with the cast’s last-minute assignment of their characters and the recurrent improvisation, Some People Talk About Violence is a very technically impressive piece of theatre. This level of fluidity and spontaneity creates a false sense of laissez-faire as such a sense of thrown-togetherness often only works as the result of extremely hard work.
Thematically the production loses some traction, with violence featuring less heavily than expected given on the title. Only one character exhibits any real connection to violence and even that does not present as the central concept. With both implicit and explicit references to such significant issues as unemployment, self-harm, flaws of the current generation and the current culture of constantly being switched on, dreading “the instantaneous response of an email, or lack thereof”, it is clear the production has something important to say, but what exactly that is, is overshadowed by all the moments of outlandish fun and downright bizarreness. This in itself is no bad thing; if the aim is to provide a residual commentary on the current state of affairs then they’ve somewhat missed the mark, but as an avant-garde, and very entertaining, piece of theatrical escapism, Some People Talk About Violence is an indisputable success.
The Other Room, Cardiff