Dressed appropriately for the sessions of yoga and contemplation, the three actors in Thinking About Thoughts take their places on the stage. A spotlight falls on one and the theatre goers hear their thoughts through wireless headphones. The spotlight moves and the inner conversation shifts. Introductions over, all three characters are illuminated and each listener can flick between the three channels to eavesdrop on the conversation inside the single head of their choice. (Small green/blue/red lights on the headphones indicate to other people around you which voice you’re listening to.)
“I hate my body yet I still put it out there for other people to judge.”
Green (played by Anna Leckey) is suffering a bad bout of smart phone separation anxiety and gradually unpacks her craving for the validation of others as she practices her sculptural yoga positions. For a while Red (Mathieu Lovelace) psychopathically imagines harming the other participants on the retreat before panicking over how he is being perceived by others. Blue (Edward Richards) is the least relational of the three but is burnt up by a sense of haste and his addiction to being busy.
The most inane moment takes on a magnified significance in the cerebral silent retreat! At one point Green obsesses about how to eat an apple in a sexy way while Red tries to hold in a fart while crawling on the floor under Green to retrieve his fallen apple. Glances and movements spark your curiosity and lead your finger up to the right earpiece to quickly switch channel and catch what’s going on.
It’s like watching three soap operas simultaneously, with your finger riding the remote control to jockey between channels and knit together your personalised version of events. The word-heavy script delivered wirelessly sketches out a depth to the characters that draws you in. For a while I felt anxiety about missing plot lines and guilt for not paying attention to a character, particularly when hearing a snatch of other audience members chuckling without having heard something funny.
By the end of the ten days of solitude, the three are driven to very different conclusions as they battle to address their inner demons. Social media, body image, productivity, relationships, avocados and the wisdom of using an alarm clock on a silent retreat are all explored in this inventive and gentle piece of theatre. Very real and modern issues examined in a way that doesn’t provide all the answers, but certainly resonate with the audience’s own experiences and hangups. Appropriately, the performance in the darkened theatre space finished with a mindfulness exercise narrated by Bridgeen Rea.
Thinking About Thoughts is a well written and well performed piece of modern theatre. For the majority of the audience, the technology enhances rather than distracts. Anna Leckey is the founder of Threes Theatre Company. A recent graduate of London South Bank University, she’s now back living in Drumbeg, and it’s good to see that Lisburn & Castlereagh Council were supporting the production which premièred last night in the Island Arts Centre.
Well worth catching one of the upcoming performances of Thinking About Thoughts in The Black Box on Monday 22 and Tuesday 23 August at 8pm.