STAGE REVIEW: Instructions For Border Crossing @ Northern Stage, Newcastle (02.11.17) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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It’s nice to be comfortable. Sure, we all want the world to change, but we want it on our terms. We want everyone hauled up to our level of comfort, the whole world having more rather than each of us having a little less and actually doing something to help.

The dark question at the heart of writer-director Daniel Bye’s Instructions for Border Crossing kicks our collective congratulatory clicktivist handwaving out of the way. Instead of asking why we don’t do something, it accuses us of worse; not merely looking the other way (we do that all the time) but actively participating through consent to the brutal system operating on our behalf.

With the meat around this pitch-black heart being the tale of a twelve year old girl sneaking across the border into her own country, sweating and bundled inside a refugee-filled truck engine compartment, the rightly accusatory message hits hard; harder still wrapped as it is in a meta-fictional dual narrative about the works of a half-forgotten performance artist who holds the key to bringing the whole heartless system down.

A deft mix of stand-up comedy and interactive storytelling sees a series of live audience interventions; guided intrusions skilfully weaved into the unfolding tale in an effortless one-hander from a convivial Daniel Bye, by turns hilarious and sinister as the gatekeeper to this lean cooperative piece.

One by one folks from the crowd play their part in recreated vignettes from (potentially fictional) performance artist Edward Short’s oeuvre, with scripted instructions watered down from their original intent to cause anarchic, surrealist havoc at border crossings; acts of comic violence in the fenced authoritative face of one of the most violent acts humanity inflicts on its own kin – the border itself.

Beyond the artifice of this provocative show the inhumane system is rendered both surreal and more real, continuing beyond the theatre as we do still nothing about it. With compliant participants and pliant audience alike informed – instructed even – that we don’t have to do anything we don’t want to, we can always just look away. Stay comfortable. Consent.

Instructions for Border Crossing is at Northern Stage until Friday 3rd November.

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