“What’s the biggest decision you’ve made today? This week? Ever?” This common refrain runs throughout the aptly entitled play 35,000. This piece of verbatim physical theatre is an interesting reflection on the 35,000 separate decisions each one of us apparently makes on a daily basis. Some of these will impact the rest of our lives, whilst most lie on the edge of the subconscious (and interestingly, 226 concern food!)
Performed and written by Bear Pit Productions, a school youth theatre company from London, this is a brave and thoughtful contemplation on the universal themes of pre-destination and free will. Through a series of vignettes, these teenagers recount their own large and smaller decisions to date, ranging from what subjects to pick at school, to the more mundane choice of what to have for lunch or what clothes to wear.
Given their relatively tender years, the action broadens to encompass the experiences and life choices of a diverse group of older adult characters including an HIV sufferer, local beggar and a 90-year-old woman at the end of her life. The roles are well acted and shared evenly, with the wider company providing good support with some sensitive choreography. The crowd scenes are busy but don’t intrude on the central action and there is a good rhythm to the piece with short, snappy scenes.
The subject of the work is thought-provoking. We hear that the philosopher Albert Camus observed: “Your life is the sum of your choices.” Who watches this production without asking themselves some stark and reflective questions? However perhaps the most touching part of this play and its message comes from the company themselves: the teenagers, with all their future potential, standing upfront on stage.
On the cusp of adulthood, with their lives barely begun, what choices will they make? (and will they be the right ones?)