The repetitive loop of work, eat, sleep, repeat can leave us feeling as if we’re living a life stuck on pause. Sincere as Objects – the latest collaboration between Swansea’s Volcano Theatre and artist Bourdon Brindille – explores this theme of personal stasis through its use of abstract performance and innovative set design. Taking place in not one, but three distinct performance spaces, the audience is guided through extravagant sets by the play’s two unnamed protagonists (Andre Bullock and Helene Gregersen) as they contemplate what it means to live, and whether we are living to our full potential.
The performance is a fever dream full of philosophical questioning. Described as a “wonderland journey through a thicket of memories, dreams and missed opportunities,” Sincere as Objects provides a mix of thought-provoking philosophy and interactive theatre. The dreamscape sets serve as a starting point around which the action evolves. These are unique spaces, from a windowless room full of sand to a heavenly, all-white dreamscape, that take the notion of stylised theatre to a whole new level. Spectators are taken on a journey through these sets, which at first glance bear no resemblance to what came before and can only be understood through the dialogue. This adds to the sense of distortion and confusion that is this production’s driving theme; the entire performance feels like walking through a confusing, ever-changing dream.
Audience interaction is central to Sincere as Objects. Before being allowed to enter, spectators are brought into a room full a chairs, each with a pair of socks placed upon it. They are asked to put the socks on to allow them to walk through the set pieces. From the get-go, the experience becomes personal as the audience find themselves taking off their shoes together, and this intimate atmosphere lasts right until the bows at the end of the show. Although the production spans three spaces, the actors sustain this intimacy between themselves and the audience by including them in the action; asking how their day has been and if the family is doing okay. Describing themselves as the audience’s guardians, the actors literally lead the way to each new space, building a strong, almost individual relationship between performer and spectator.
The dynamic between the two actors adds another level of distortion to an already abstract performance. It becomes apparent early on that rather than playing specific characters, Bullock and Gregersen are portraying representations of a spiralling mind. Instead of traditional dialogue, the script opts for the use of rhetorical questions, metaphors and analogies, as well as monologues containing a combination of personal experiences and metaphysical explanations about what it truly means to be alive. The relationship between the actors remains unknown throughout, creating a sense of universality around their revelations about life and how it should be lived.
Family is another important theme in Sincere as Objects, as the ‘guardians’ explore how relationships with loved ones can be the cause of both happiness and pain. Taking place is the all-white dreamscape set, the play explores how familial experiences have a vital role in influencing how people choose to live their lives. More than any other part of the performance, this section is most effective in making the audience question how they are living their own lives. As the actors become more and more impassioned about whether families create more stress or strength, there is a tangible sense of sadness that can be felt amongst the audience; as though they are watching the breakdown of the human spirit in such a key and relatable moment. This is a performance that overwhelms the eyes and mind, and is a truly immersive piece of theatre. Through its extreme abstract qualities, Volcano Theatre’s Sincere as Objects invites its audience to take a journey of realisation. Going in with an open mind, it is a beautiful piece of drama that seeks to inspire and give a new outlook on life – that it is not forever and nothing is guaranteed, so live in every moment, even if you haven’t got a clue what is going on.