There’s a lot could be said about "Total Immediate Collective Imminent Terrestrial Salvation." But to say too much would most likely reveal spoilers. And in this case it’s important not to. For the audience must journey into the unknown rather than the known. Even the brief description about a writer leading his followers towards the end of the world and the defector returning to find her voice again are a little disingenuous. Possibly. For there’s wheels within wheels in this thought provoking production which plays with the conditions, conventions and abuses of our suspension of disbelief. If it all looks decidedly simple, "Total Immediate Collective Imminent Terrestrial Salvation"casts many things in a different light, even if the journey can be tediously paced to keep everyone involved. If it makes some rather bold claims, with some not quite delivering, a surprising number of them do, often with disconcerting accuracy.
With the audience seated in the round with a book in their hand, guided through it page by page by performers Shyvonne Ahmmad, Tim Crouch and Susan Vider, "Total Immediate Collective Imminent Terrestrial Salvation” plays with Pirandello-like meta-narratives to explore the making of narrative and theatre. Like a kindergarten reading class, or a brainwashing indoctrination programme, the audience are lured deeper and deeper into the experience. Black and white, comic book illustrations by Rachana Jadhav, set against pages of direct and abstract text, reveal the mutability of text and performance with focus fractured between page, stage and the imagined. Dialogue and directions are read, ignored, repeated, exaggerated, with meanings emerging in a myriad of ways. But there’s a deeper subtext at play. Involving our need to be complicit and belong, learning habits of shared behaviour that, when left unquestioned, can lead us to strange and disturbing places if we’re not careful.
Like an eclipse, "Total Immediate Collective Imminent Terrestrial Salvation" drags us into the dark, passes over, and leaves everything unchanged. Or maybe changed just a little. Aware that even the sun can break predictable habits. Might we not want to examine some of our own? Or are we content to be the blind led by the blind? Deceptively smart, "Total Immediate Collective Imminent Terrestrial Salvation" might reveal more than you'd care to know.
"Total Immediate Collective Imminent Terrestrial Salvation” by Tim Crouch, presented by National Theatre of Scotland in association with the Royal Court Theatre, Teatro do Bairro Alto, Lisbon, and Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts, runs as part of Dublin Theatre Festival 2019 at Samuel Beckett Theatre until October 6.
For more information, visit Dublin Theatre Festival 2019 or Samuel Beckett Theatre.