As you queue to receive your headphones and are led into an ampitheatre-like construction, The Roof quickly makes you believe you are about to watch something truly amazing. A feeling that, rather frustratingly, soon becomes a distant memory. Conceived by Frauke Requardt and David Rosenberg and set in a world of computer gaming, where green monsters are always around the corner and sinister bunny-like men coolly dance you into each level, The Roof asks us to imagine what would happen in a world where “all mobile phones have burst into flames”.
The answer, it seems, is not a lot. We follow player 611 as he enters the game at Level 1, repetitively bumbling through the first few levels before taking shape as an aspiring hero by Level 8. As we are taken further and further into this bizarre world, the production increasingly lacks progression; the pace never really picks up and the set never inventively developed.
Nonetheless, The Roof cleverly combines different mediums of performance art, from free running to dancing, and the result is never too far from visually exciting. This amalgamation is at its best when the more peripheral characters of the game, in particular the siren-like majorettes, energetically use designer Jon Bausor’s 360 degree stage. However, an hour on from Level 1 and the hopeful concoction of parkour, contemporary dance and mesmeric lights has disappointingly failed to cement together. You can’t help but feel that honing in on one of these jigsaw pieces may have created a much more complete picture.
It is David Price’s playful music – brought to the audience through their headphones – that provides the most enjoyable aspects of The Roof. Not only do the electronic sounds highlight the perversity of gaming, but the multi dimensional noises allows for far more interesting issues to be explored. As monsters and players get beaten to a pulp, murmurs and cheers of encouragement can be heard coming from fellow audience members. We see how quickly mob mentality can set in, and people become desensitised to violence when inundated with images of bloodied and bruised fighters.
The result feels a bit like mind trick, where Requardt and Rosenberg have purposely set out to question how we act when faced with a world of detachment, where nothing feels like it could have real impact. But regrettably, the world of The Roof is too weightless, uninspiring and fundamentally a bit dull to play any real trick on the mind.
The Roof is playing at the Doon Street Car Park until 28 June. For more information and tickets, see the National Theatre website. Photo by Hampartsournian.