Paperfeet Theatre’s Yes No Maybe at the Marlborough Theatre is one of the physical theatre offerings at Brighton Fringe. Described as “a compelling piece of physical theatre exploring our everyday encounters and the subtle yet explosive impact that they have on our lives” I unfortunately found the performance didn’t quite live up to my expectations.
Primarily I found myself wanting more physical work; the company certainly had the skills for it and the narrative provided ample opportunity. Set on an average day at work, mostly in an office, the performance explores the seeming banality of our everyday lives. The opening sequence, where all performers form a collective sleeping body that repeatedly hits snooze and gradually stumbles out of bed, is one of the tightest and most inventive in the show.
Too often, however, the physical pieces feel like physical theatre exercises plonked into a loosely constructed narrative. The script definitely has room for improvement and as it stands certain scenes and characters are unnecessary. The production would benefit from scrutinising what its central concern is and cutting anything superfluous to this. A janitor character whose main purpose was as filler between scenes could do with development if he is to stay, and the dramatic ending is too stereotypical and predictable to hold any weight.
It felt to me as if Paperfeet Theatre haven’t yet found their style, and voice, as a company. The idea, the explosiveness behind the subtlety of our everyday encounters, is a good one and they should have more confidence in it. I also felt they should have had more confidence in telling more, if not all, of the performance physically. A lovely moment in the show comes when one of the office employees does a coffee run resulting in the local barista having to make a ridiculously complex drink. Piano music, white-gloved hands and signs saying ‘sprinkles’ and ‘foam’ all form part of the performance of making the beverage. Stylistically it’s reminiscent of Michel Gondry’s film The Science of Sleep; although this quirky style does find its way into other scenes – most notably in the charming accordion/ukulele playing busker character – it isn’t strong enough throughout.
Precision of the physical sequences, the tightness of the ensemble and the stage design could also be developed. Props were messily strewn around the edges of the stage, which is fine if it’s by design but it felt more just by necessity and lack of consideration than anything else. A number of times coffee and its accoutrements are used, and yet there is no coffee in the cup and it’s painfully obvious. Film can just about get away with this but on stage I want to see the real thing, or for it to be very clear not having the actual drink is a choice and not just because it’s easier.
Yes No Maybe is a strong yet underdeveloped idea. Certain elements need focusing on, tightening and really thinking about but it demonstrates that Paperfeet Theatre have a unique style waiting to break through.
Yes No Maybe played at the Brighton Fringe.