The Various Lives of Infinite Nullity[author-post-rating] (4/5 Stars)

When Clout Theatre first appeared at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2012, I dismissed its piece, How A Man Crumbled. I failed to see what it was attempting to achieve with its physical portrayals of grotesque characters. A year later and a new show, and I realise that I couldn’t have been more wrong. Clout Theatre has matured to produce a show of such devastating beauty that I had goosebumps for the first time in at the Fringe. It may sound like a strange statement, but those goosebumps symbolise something for me: a moment of complete perfection during a performance –it happens only when I watch something that strikes me to my very core – and in The Various Lives of Infinite Nullity I found something that has been absent from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival so far.

With their gaunt white faces and finely dressed fluorescent school uniforms, the Clout Theatre ensemble stare out to the audience. What are they wanting behind those goulish eyes of theirs? Love? Acceptance? No, it’s far more basic than that: they want to be seen as alive. The Various Lives of Infinite Nullity is a tongue-in-cheek look at the fragility of life, and how meaningless it all appears when we are so close to death at all times. Over the course of the production we see death, suicide, murder and greed displayed with violent and grotesque images. When the cast are shot at, their groans of pains as they fall to the floor clutching themselves are comic, but also haunting. Their repeated look at death and the Alcoholics Anonymous group-therapy look at suicide shows a far greater sense of play than is shown on the surface. It is a subtle piece that tests the patience of the audience, but where How A Man Crumbled felt too testing, The Various Lives of Infinite Nullity gives you a chance to revel in the brilliance of the dead-pan and confronting theatre company.

Humour is seen in tea cups slitting throats and being buried alive as you talk constantly about planning your day, but the amusement slips away like that feeling when you know a joke has gone too far and your stomach begins to stir. At times it’s fair to say that some of the images (a man being weed on by another man, for example) are a little challenging, but this is what makes this piece of work so engrossing and rich. Anyone can pretend to die and shoot themselves with red paint, but few companies could pull this off with a chilling dead-pan stare with all sense of seriousness.

The Various Lives of Infinite Nullity is playful in its absurd look at life. Despite wanting to be repelled by these gruesome characters, there is something uncharacteristically appealing about them, too. Just like keeping death outside your door, inviting Clout Theatre into your performance space is like stepping into a surreal encounter on the verge of madness and freak-show. Whilst the thought of spending an hour watching three sweet performers being mutilated by gun-fire might not sound appealing, it is beautifully tragic.

The Various Lives of Infinite Nullity is playing at Summerhall as part of the Edinburgh Fringe until 25 August. For more information and tickets, see the Edinburgh Fringe website.