Review: The Man Who Flew Into Space From His Apartment, The Collection and Usher Gallery

The Man Who Flew Into Space From His Apartment by Michael Pinchbeck features a guest performer for a 30-minute performance, as part of the Frequency Festival 2015. I was impressed by both the written text being conveyed, as well as the capability of the actor delivering Pinchbeck’s work. The Man Who Flew is a very invasive piece, where the audience are directly involved in the drama. Having been based on an installation by Russian artist Ilya Kabakov, Pinchbeck cleverly involves stereotypically Russian references throughout, as well as directing the guest performer to go to the audience saying “dosvidanya” at the end, which translates as ‘goodbye’. The Man Who Flew makes you want to laugh, to cry and to reflect upon yourself all at the same time.

The main strength of the performance comes from the unknown – even the actor themselves has never heard or seen what they are about to witness, and the written text by Pinchbeck is delivered to them through headphones on stage. The Man Who Flew is delivered in an intimate art gallery, where only ten audience members can be seated.

Indeed, the performance space itself contributes to the overall feeling, as the audience are withing eye contact distance. From the start, this feeling of the unknown and uncertainty stems from the actor into the audience, with them stating “T-minus thirteen seconds. I have been invited to perform a piece of text I have never seen – travelling into the unknown, like the man who flew into space”. This particularly makes the audience feel more enticed, as they are in the same situation as the actor and go through the performance together.

Audience involvement greatly aids the performance, as they’re placed out of their comfort zone, making them centre on the actor throughout. At one point during the performance, the guest performer commands the audience to take off their shoes, and then collects them and puts them on stage. This level of audience invasion returns to an almost Theatre of Cruelty style of performance, enlightening the audience and making them fully focused on the drama of the piece.

The only negative aspect of the show is the delivery at times, as due to the actor having little pre-empted information, the performance is somewhat static on occasion. This is through no fault of the performer, but mainly due to the restrictive set design, which is seemingly too lavish for such a minimalist performance, advertised as a ‘slideshow theatre piece’. There is a lot to be said for a performer who can take information simply through headphones and perform, and the guest performer at this showing was certainly an able actor, directly addressing her audience members and involving herself in the space and the performance.

The Man Who Flew Into Space From His Apartment will certainly keep you immersed and attentive throughout, going from the somewhat alienating moments at the start, to the genuinely gripping and emotional ending of the performance. It is an admirable concept, bringing in a guest performer with no previous impressions of the work and giving them instructions throughout – a concept which worked well, enticing the entire audience.

The Man Who Flew Into Space From His Apartment played at The Collection and Usher Gallery on 27 October as part of the Frequency Lincoln Digital Culture Festival 2015, which runs until 1 November. For more information, see the Frequency Festival website