A2 Do You Want This Once Again? ICA, 14 January 2003
A2 are a dynamic young duo who think a lot. In their piece Do You Want This Once Again? performed at the ICA as part of the International Mime Festival, they were joined by senior citizen Jean Morgan in an exploration of time, inevitability, isolation, waste and the modern world. The questions they ask are bold and uncompromising; the range of media and styles they employ to ask them are direct and unafraid. The result is physically based theatre that uses striking visual imagery, witty sharp choreography, live, recorded and projected written text as well as a range of household appliances to become something teetering between the mundane and the sublime.
With a real tree branch supported on a stand on one side of the stage and a silver microwave on the other, play opens inside a modern wasteland, where fragments of life, emotion, history and materialism are considered for a moment then discarded with the frivolous and self-destructive ease of the modern consumer. Popcorn cooks inside the microwave and is eaten piece by piece by the three performers; sugar spills across the stage from the snagged corner of a tesco carrier bag and is vacuumed up by a glamorous hunchback; a fur coat is cut up into small squares with upbeat rhythmical accompaniment and by a character with the well-rehearsed and vacuous joy of a Blue Peter presenter. Life seems mindless and mundane in a society where you can have anything that takes your fancy in any instant and discard it just as easily.
But A2’s interest lies in the fact that they do not simply present this as a bleak reality. Their clever title takes us to the slippery place between the mundane and the sublime with the crucial question – Do you want this once again? The cycle of our mechanical and relentlessly producing/consuming world promises an endless supply, and yet human actions, thoughts and experiences can never truly be repeated. Once done, thought or experienced, it is over and can never be repeated. They will never cut up the same fur coat in the same way, they will never eat that same bowl of popcorn – tomorrow night their actions might look similar but will be fundamentally different. So are these moments of time mundane or are they sublime? Are they wasted or are they sacrosanct?
The uncomfortable cross-sectioning of fast paced desirable modernity and the process of aging as the inevitable fate of humanity, is obviously played on in the pairing of young Alit Kreiz and Anton Mirto against an older Jean Morgan. But the generational difference is not heavy-handed, and Jean Morgan’s character is far from a victim, swigging a can of coke and spray painting the scenery and fellow performers. All three share feelings of jealousy, isolation and a longing for affection and all three give beautiful, steady performances. They play with our obsessive gravitational pull towards linearity in time, by constructing the piece episodically and asking ‘Why strive to reach an end at all?’ As one character sits atop the tree branch happily sawing away at it until her own weight causes the branch to break and her to fall to the floor, we certainly do wonder why we strive to find an end, if by obsessively and thoughtlessly continuing to saw, all we succeed in doing is securing our own downfall.