If there is one thing I have learnt recently, it is how much of the National Theatre is hidden from sight amongst the cocooning layers of concrete. Where Made In China’s Get Stuff Break Free took audiences between two lift shafts overlooking the Southbank, non zero one presents its piece you’ll see [me sailing in antarctica] on the edge of the NT roof overlooking Waterloo and the city behind. Working in similar style to its other pieces, audience members wear headphones with microphones to interact with the performance and performers. After being led out onto the roof we sit around a large circular table facing inwards. Here we learn that every headset is live, and that speaking, coughing or sneezing will be heard in our ears as if the person is sitting next to us. We are encouraged to meet and greet each other, to get used to hearing our voices relayed through headphones. What this creates is a heightened state of performance; we are involved in the performance through our very breathing which, if listening careful, can be heard gently in our ears.
Over the course of the hour, non zero one prepares its audience for the present. It tests our memories, our reflexes, and our ability to focus on a given point and to clear our minds altogether. It attempts to create clarity and for us to be truly present in the moment. What we learn through you’ll see [me sailing in antarctica] is just how difficult it is for us to be present. If, as the company declares, we live our life in three second intervals that are cataloged and stored in our memory, then our life is significantly fractured and disparate. With every memory that we try and recall we are only remembering 60% of that given memory; the other 40% dissolves, or is fabricated from other instances that influence us. Do we celebrate the slow slipping away of memories, or do we mourn them, realising that our lives are quickly disappeaing into a blackness? Of this I am unsure, but as a performance piece it is wonderfully honest, tender and heartening whilst being, for me at least, somewhat tragic and bleak.
As the company prepares us for seeing the city around us, there is a distinct feeling of being wooed, of a warming in our hearts that is gentle and subtle. Non zero one is acting as our guide into the unknown, and yet it all feels familiar too. I’m not talking about the work itself, which feels distinct and unique, but there’s a sense of warming awakening, a soothing sense the company invokes that, right here and right now, this is the present and that no matter how hard we try, what just happened will always be slipping away as a memory. Equally, the view from the roof of the National Theatre is all too familiar, and as we are encouraged to look out as the platform we are seated around begins to rotate, the city of London with all its quirks and buildings becomes alive. There is a richness, an understanding that what we see now will not be the same tomorrow or next week. We’re witnessing a small micro-world that, in an instant, shifts and changes. What is familiar now will become distant tomorrow.
It’s hard to really discuss you’ll see [me sailing in antarctica] without wanting to urge you to attend. It’s defining personal theatre that brings together a group of 24 audience members for a heartening and awakening theatrical experience that will never quite be the same on any other night. Within its uniqueness and its dreamlike quality, you’ll feel enveloped into non zero one’s imaginative world. You’ll want to call an old friend, or tell someone you love them, just to pass on the goodness you’ve felt. Or perhaps, like me, you’ll understand that with our lives comes a real sadness and small moments of tragedy that can’t be avoided. you’ll see [me sailing in antarctica] shows you have to see and to experience what is in front of you, whilst dreaming of the future. Blissfully tender and intimate theatre.
you’ll see [me sailing in antarctica] is playing on the roof of the National Theatre until 20 July. For more information and tickets, see the National Theatre website.