As the audience enters the Main Hall in the former vet school (now art space) Summerhall, they are presented with a strange sight. A small child is standing on a mound of dirt wearing a set of large clunky headphones. She is also holding a shotgun tightly to her chest. To the back of the stage sits a woman who is speaking into a microphone. The audience never hears what she says, but every time she moves the microphone away from her lips the child completes an action. This usually involves picking up a prop from a shelf to the back of the stage, and presenting it to one of the other performers. This shelf includes a skull, tape recorder, a six pack of beer and several other seemingly random objects.
Adler & Gibb is not a straight forward performance. It is a strange account of an actor preparing for a role in a biography about the fictional and reclusive conceptual artists Janet Adler and Margaret Gibb. This is interspersed with expertly delivered segments from a research student (Jillian Pullara) as she gives an eloquent and informative lecture on the artists. The “facts” on Adler and Gibb feel genuine despite their obvious fictitious origins. The reality of the performance comes from the engaging writing and the seemingly authentic backstory that is delivered throughout the show.
Adler & Gibb was first performed at the Royal Court Theatre in London in 2014 and is written and directed by Tim Crouch. It has a very loose experimental feel and this tentative perspective comes from the non-linear approach to storytelling and the bizarre inclusion of the child . This feels random and filled with symbolism and confusion. It seems like the writer/director is asking the audience to take from the obscurity of the objects what they like, but luckily the performance and script is engaging enough to hold the narrative together. Towards the conclusion, the house lights dim and a video is projected onto the back screen. This gives further insight in to what we have been watching and ties some of the more difficult plot elements together. This allows the audience to leave the theatre space with a degree of satisfaction and the feeling that they have experienced something truly original and exciting.