Sometimes shows arrive at the Fringe pre-garlanded with praise and much of the time, when you see the show, it’s difficult to understand why. This is definitely not the case with Artificial Things. The show received a rapturous response at its Sadler’s Wells premiere and it’s easy to understand as Stopgap’s show is a superbly inventive and committed piece of physical theatre.
The company is a mix of able bodied and disabled performers, but never at any point does that dreaded word “despite” come to mind. Nobody is here on anything other than merit and the physical abilities of each performer are blended effortlessly to make a cohesive piece of art.
The show is in three sections which seem to represent a society in its last days. The first is a rousing piece of rock-opera bombast with a Weimar cabaret vibe. As it goes on, the performers ratchet up the rhythm and energy to a sweaty frenzy before collapsing.
The chaos is replaced with order in the second part as a fascistic demagogue takes the stage. As with all dictators, there’s a pantomime flamboyance about him and the performers move from mockery to obedience as his rise and fall is played out.
The haunting final section is set in a post-apocalyptic world where people reach out for contact, love and humanity. It’s a rich and emotionally-charged ending, perfectly counterbalancing the intense opening.
Thought provoking, intelligent, imaginative and powerful, this is physical theatre in its truest sense and its highest quality.