top of page
  • Flora Gosling

Review: What You See When Your Eyes Are Closed / What You Don't See When Your Eyes Are Open

Mamoru Iriguchi’s theatrical lab of looking

Some theatre takes place in the theatre departments of universities, and others in commercial theatre venues, and rarely do the two meet. After all, they work to different criteria; even the most experimental work still wants to entertain its audience first and foremost, and as entertaining as academic theatre may be it is still more concerned with exploring the possibilities and boundaries of the form. But once in a blue moon you get a show like What You See When Your Eyes Are Closed/ What You Don’t See When Your Eyes Are Open, which takes delight in taking audiences to the heart of theatrical academia.

Photo Credit: Medoune Seck

The performance is a theatrical ode to James J. Gibson, an academic who specialised in studying how animals see other animals in the wild. But our first encounter with him in the performance is not what you might expect. We enter the room to see a seven-foot creature that looks like a cross between “No Face” from Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away, a Zangbeto voodoo guardian, and an orange party popper. He kills a news reporter, who is mourned by Elvis Presley, and eulogised with a passage from Gibson’s work. This cycle repeats itself several times over, toying with elements and audience interaction before the whole thing is taken apart and we enter uncharted territory, all on the topic of how we look at things.

A big selling piece of the performance is its creative approach to accessibility. Cyclops has a projector in his head that creates captions in a variety of inventive ways, and audiences who need/want them can watch the performance with earpieces playing creative and emotive audio descriptions of the events taking place. Some choices are more successful than others: the AD is both involving and helpful, but the projector cannot always display the text clearly, on account of being mounted to a moving head that swivels the picture across the uneven walls. Fortunately, audiences also have scripts that allow them to follow along. At a certain point, however, the accessibility starts to overwhelm the piece. It feels less like accessibility is being integrated and more like it is being highlighted, which runs the risk of users feeling singled out rather than invited in. To see a perfect example of balancing humour with practicality when it comes to accessibility see It’s a Motherf**king Pleasure – but that is a review for another day.

Photo Credit: Medoune Seck

Although it is fun to be in Iriguchi’s theatrical lab, particularly for audiences craving some out-of-the-box audience interaction, you start to wonder where the meat of the performance is. Unless you are especially invested in the study of visual perception there is not much below the surface to grab audiences. The performance is pitched as being about the significance of live performance, but I felt I had the “how” in need of a “why”. In other words, we see the techniques in play, but not what they could be used for. The best theatre of this type does both. That said, the performance does have some fun moments, some sweet moments, and some personal moments from a beloved Edinburgh theatre-maker. For audiences invested in theatre as a medium, it is maybe worth getting a little scientific. Three stars.

What You See When Your Eyes Are Closed / What You Don't See When Your Eyes Are Open will play at Summerhall until August 27th


Featured Posts

Recent POSTS

 Search by TAGS 

bottom of page