I GENUINELY believed that “Adding Machine, a Musical” which I saw at the Finborough was going to take my prize for the most surreal piece of theatre I’d seen this year, but Director Paul Hunter and his Told by an Idiot company have just stolen the accolade hands down.
There is a backdrop that might be primitive Pre-Colombian wall painting or maybe something from a primary school art class, and to the front of the stage stands a tree stump in which is buried a machete; Heads Will Roll, the title tells us.
The four-strong cast introduce themselves as three Spanish schoolchildren and their Colombian teacher, who is coaching them in good English in preparation for the arrival of some visitors. What follows is a sequence of magnificently strange scenes, in which the search for El Dorado takes ever more bizarre turns. The effectiveness of the machete is demonstrated on several melons and a grapefruit, but fortunately no blood seems to be spilled. Sequences such as the gold covered king bathing in the lake are depicted through imaginative use of stage props and sound effects, while music is provided by one cast member on what appears to be an upright piano but reveals itself to be not what it seems.
In fact, very little proves to be what it seems and the play, in its search for what may or may not be real, seriously plays with the audience and has us doubting our own sanity at times. The closing scene, which briefly introduces a fifth actor in what must be the strangest role he will ever play, leaves us with a magical but perplexing final image.
Heads Will Roll takes Told by an Idiot’s sideways-looking style of writing and performance to new levels of curiosity and is without a doubt one of the most off the wall performance pieces you’re likely to see. It plays at the Everyman until Saturday 12th November – buy a ticket and expect the unexpected…
Review by Nigel Smith