I did not know what to expect of From the Mouths of the Gods, but what I found it to be I was not impressed with. The set consists of a chair and two glasses of water and the performer comes onto stage dressed from head to toe in black. That detail isn’t significant but it’s one of the few details I can pinpoint in this extremely scarce piece of theatre. The piece ostensibly claims to be an examination of determinism and the way in which our past shapes our lives. However, this introduction to philosophical thinking is presented as if they are radically new ideas. For anyone with even a basic interest in the realm of the philosophy this makes for a dull watch. While never claiming to be an expert, the way the writing presents these ideas seems incredibly patronising and self-indulgent.
The experimentation element of the piece is revealed (although much too late in the show) to be that each night a new actor takes to the stage having never before seen the script. This explains why the actor I saw read from her script so robotically the entire time. It is a strange decision not to explain this up-front, before sitting through an hour of it – maybe this would have been less insufferable. The conceptual, meta-dramatic element is furthered by the only other character in the piece being an audience member. This particular woman (her name was Kate) was the only part of the piece where I found any enjoyment, her sarcastic answers to the tired questions about God and life proved refreshing amongst the clichéd ‘Why are we here’ seminar-like questions that were presented to both the audience and the volunteer. What was most disappointing about this is that none of the (relatively interesting) answers that Kate gave were engaged with by the performer. Upon getting her answer, she simply went back to her script and resumed the hollow reading rather than engage with the volunteer’s ideas. This seems to render the audience participation pointless since the answers go unheard and essentially disregarded. The most patronising section comes towards the end in which the performer holds out the script for those of us in the front row as if revealing the fact that she’d been reading from it the whole time. She presented this as if we did not understand that what she was creating was, in fact, a fiction.
Ultimately, this is an unoriginal and self-indulgent piece. Whilst the quality of the overall production may shift depending on the actor/volunteer, the quality of the writing, unfortunately, remains the same.
From The Mouths Of The Gods played at the Greenwich Theatre until October 16.