Which is more important; a show’s idea or its execution? The Toasted Peacocks proudly aspire to “give you 101 questions but leave you with zero answers” with their show An Act Of, written by Phil Jones. Taking place in the aftermath of a disastrous party, a group of office workers with numbers for names (Four, Six, and One, for example) try to piece together what to do next, while the audience try to piece together exactly where they are, who they are, and why one of them just turned into confetti.
The first thing to strike the audience is the characters’ personalities before any of the strangeness emerges. Three (Roisin Culligan-Hughes) is a snooty kill-joy, Four (Bryony-Ann Hodson) is bitter and relentlessly sarcastic (with a heavy Liverpudlian accent that requires some concentration to translate north of the border), Six (James Adcock-Kersting) is cocky and authoritative, and their characteristics wear thin quickly. Watching them interact is like watching a group of bratty children trying to navigate social situations for the first time.
As the performance goes on, however, you pick up on the celestial and biblical hints. Savvy audience members and review readers may have picked up on the missing word from the title. There is evidently a hierarchy according to the numbers of the characters – exactly what the work is that they do, yet are so apathetic towards, is unknown – and the setting of the whole story remains a mystery. Are they in Heaven? Hell? Even better still are suggestions that they are all in a lifeless limbo state, like that of Schrödinger’s cat. The puzzle is intriguing for any critical mind and is indicative of genius writing.
However, the show keeps its promise. No answers are provided; only what the audiences can figure out for themselves. On one hand, it shows they respect their audience, however at the same time it has the effect of making you feel like a small child who’s not sure what all the big kids are laughing about. The characters are unlikeable, there is no escaping that, but the layers of interpretation give it some depth. How much, you cannot know – maybe even the artists don’t – but An Act Of will certainly give anyone who goes to see it something to think about.