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Wednesday 18 March 2015

PACT'S 'RAPID RESPONSE TEAM' dissected by James

PACT Centre for Emerging Artists' 'RAPID RESPONSE TEAM', hereby referred to as RRT, is a clever, often amusing piece of conceptually driven theatre. Its title is as much a descriptor as it is a moniker, as the group of artists given themselves two days to respond creatively to the stories from the previous news week. 

I’ll start by saying that the production is conceptually appealing. In an information saturated world it’s kind of refreshing to sit and watch a group of artists filter through the content, and then reflect upon it creatively. Additionally, there was something interesting in the way the production offered a perspective on how we view and interact with news as a piece of entertainment. This was seen most clearly at the commencement of the piece as the performers watched a constantly updating news feed in silence. Every minute or so a new news story would appear, to which the performers would cheer and drink from their beers. The audience would laugh, and then read the title of the story; “Wife waits for word of Husband caught in killer cyclone,” to which the audience, like the performers, would quickly feel the pang of sadness, and perhaps guilt at utilising this story for entertainment. Yet is that not its purpose anyway? It produced an interesting dynamic to say the least.

The other appealing aspect of the concept was its creative limitations. The set was simple and largely bare. A rug adorns the floor, some tables (including the lighting desk) occupy the sides and back with a scaffolding rig sitting back-right. There is a screen against the left wall. The lighting is low and warm. It’s quite a welcoming space, and feels very natural. The performance isn’t trying to sell you anything, it’s simply practical; born out of the creative process. The team, Aslam Abdus-samad, Nick Atkins, DA Carter, Marie Chanel, Stephanie King, Ryan McGoldrick, Kevin Ng and Claudia Osborne, are obviously all very talented theatre makers, especially considering the amount of time they have to put each performance together. Before the show begins, we are told the performers started creating the performance the previous day, culminating in approximately 15 hours creation and rehearsal time. This produces a feeling of risk, while simultaneous provoking admiration at the team’s ability to create smooth, entertaining theatre with so little time.

Strangely enough, the inherent feeling of risk adds something to the performance. The question or threat of things going wrong is a constant presence throughout the piece. Rather than be a negative experience however, it’s quite pleasurable to watch the performers succeed with so much against them. It is a credit to their ability as theatre makers.

That being said however, there were some elements to the performance that were lacking, and I think this largely correlates to the amount of time the performers have to prepare.

Transitions between scenes/sections are at times long winded and a quite clunky. This isn’t a consistent thing, but certainly occurs enough to warrant attention. There were moments where the performance felt empty; we were moving from one brief segment to another brief segment, and the transition itself seemed to take the same amount of time as the segments it connected, leading to what felt like a drawn out empty procedure. Perhaps this feeling was a result of not knowing the subject matter the performers were drawing from, something which at times was frustrating and other times pleasurable (It became something of a riddle to solve).This was by no means the general experience of the show, simply something felt at various points.
I think it’s also important to note that no two performances of RRT will be the same and because of this, I wager the team will develop their process as they go along. The problems of this show will not be the problems of their next and will no doubt improve dramatically. 

Rapid Response Team was accessible, interesting, amusing and thought provoking. It is an interesting way to digest the news in an information heavy world, and an enjoyable night out. Definitely worth a watch.

RAPID RESPONSE TEAM performances take place on:
11th April 9th May 13th June 11st July 8th August 12th September 10th October 14th November

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