3 November 2022
NOT ONE OF THESE PEOPLE (Royal Court Theatre) Review

This has to be one of the worst pieces of theatre I’d ever seen, rivalled perhaps only by “When We Have Sufficiently Tortured Each Other“, staged at the National Theatre in 2019, which was also written by Martin Crimp.  I see the trend but, sadly, not the hype.

Having sworn off seeing Crimp’s plays after seeing his version of Cyrano (where good acting was overshadowed by bad writing), I went against my better judgement and decided to give this play a go because it was going to be something different:  deepfakes “performing” the play with Crimp himself on stage…  Will he be “driving” them?  What will they be acting out?  It was the technology angle that had me hooked.

The writing here was the same in his other two plays:  dreadful, banal, and incredibly self-indulgent.  Or is it self-aggrandising?  A bit of both really…

The “play” (and yes, one does need quotes around it) is 299 vignettes spoken by deepfake images (some static, some moving), i.e., computer-generated faces that do not belong to real people.  Some vignettes are little paragraphs; others are one-liners.  Some vignettes do not relate to any others; some come full circle and create connections with the ones that came earlier.

At 1-hour-40, it is entirely too long.  Boredom sets in at about a half-hour mark.  There is no plot, so it’s like being at a comedy show where one-liners are thrown at the audience, but the comedian isn’t funny, so you can’t quite work out why the guy behind you is laughing his pants off, though you’re comforted by the fact that he’s the only one.  According to the write-up, Crimp was originally going to do this with 1,000 “people”, so the show could run for hours, and audience members could float in and out.  In a way that would’ve been better, so that people wouldn’t be held captive.

Some of the vignettes were funny and/or charming, but most were trite and dull.  Two, however, especially caught my ear, as they seemed to be very representative of the show:  “I go on writing even though it’s mediocre” and “I was bored from beginning to end, but, perhaps, I was supposed to be”.  That’s Crimp in the former and me in the latter right there.

The technology angle also disappointed a fair bit.  Whilst the photos are brilliantly realistic, that’s only the case when they are static.  Once they start moving and become little talking videos, it’s fairly hit and miss:  some faces look fairly normal in motion, whilst others look so contorted, you couldn’t be faulted for thinking that this “person” in front of you is having a stroke.

If anything, the whole show feels like a vanity project.  I find it difficult to believe that, if Crimp wasn’t a bit of a “name”, that The Royal Court would’ve put on this show written by anyone else…

Cheapskate enjoyment value: -£20.

Bonus: Jamie Lloyd was in the audience.  Was really hoping I’d run into him after the show so I could ask what he thought about it, but, alas, wasn’t meant to be…

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