Nothing is happening, the pixels are huge

13 April 2017

More a durational art piece than a play, Pixels leaves Eve Allin unsettled and unable to look away


When you set up your show with superlatives like “huge” and “nothing”, the audience come in with a certain show in mind. The show is vast, and existential, and perhaps a little weird.

With Theatre 42’s show Nothing is Coming, the Pixels are Huge we entered the space to see sexy blue low-lighting and figures dotted about the stage. Two of them wander about, not aimlessly, but with little purpose it seems. The others look around. One stares into the middle-distance. We have entered a new space, a new conceptual dimension. At the back of the stage are boxes, piled high in an aesthetically pleasing height order; brown and square and all perfectly alike.

The show begins and we are greeted with a long silence. It makes us uncomfortable. We shuffle a little in our seats as one of the actors lays out the pixels. Silence, still. The brown everyday box is placed down and lights up. The first pixel is small.

Theatre 42’s tech is a spectacle in itself – the cardboard box established in the pre-set glows blue and radiant. There’s a gasp – we are seeing live science-fiction theatre. This is going to be good.

Especially striking was the dramaturgical integration of this not-so-far-in-the-future world of technology. These are stories we are used to reading, imagining, seeing in CGI on an IMAX screen. With this show, we’re in the room with them, physically stationed inside the cloud as… observers? I’m not sure.

The next pixels are bigger, and then bigger again, and then bigger again. They are trees, they are tower blocks, they are rivers, they are tower blocks, they are train tracks, they are tower blocks. What actually happens in this show is very little. They glitch, and we are not shocked, so much as apathetic. It’s just something that happens.

Not so much a “play” as a durational art piece, Pixels lulls its audience into lethargy, but I feel uneasy. Unsettled, somehow. The movement was slow and considered, the text delivered in similar monotonous tones, and yet it felt wrong to look away. It would be unwise to divert your attention. It is dangerous to accept yourself in this new era of packed cardboard box pixels.

At the end we are left in a stasis and the boxes are collapsed. They are fallen, the world dismantled, but we didn’t get our cathartic release. The huge towering pile wasn’t knocked over. We are left unsatisfied.

I want this piece to be five hours long in an art gallery on the outskirts of London. For me, that’s where it belongs, rather than on the stage. And I mean that in the best way possible.


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Photo credit: Aenne Pallasca