The truth is often subjective, but even when it’s not, does it exclude all other possibilities from also being true? Are there degrees of truth in everything we do and say? Does truth bring meaning, or pull away from it? In a world where words have to be trusted in order to be accepted, to communicate our ideas, does it matter what words you actually use? Do they need to have any impact, let alone a desired one? We May Have To Choose speaks to its audience on an individual level, and it really is what we each make of it.
We are promised 621 opinions in 45 minutes, fair warning for the cascading waterfall of information/truth/assumption that is about to drench us. The stage set before us, a huge roll of paper bull-clipped to the rear wall, smoothly curving onto the raised performance space and down to the floor, immediately feels stark, fragile, and gives a sense of infinite wonder. Add to this one quavering, ominous, drawn-out musical note (designed/conducted by SS.Sebastian) that bleeds into powerful metallic tones as the performer takes the stage and delineates the rules in a Love Actually placard style. The audience is reassured by the non-verbal communication that this is just our introduction, laying down the rules (Rule One: Do not speak. Rule Two: I speak) and accepting the performer/audience contract very deliberately and delicately. The performer even distributes a few beers.
The audience is now highly receptive.
Our performer (Emma Hall) is enchanting, engaging and deeply affecting as she delivers these 621 opinions – changing pace and tone with subtle dexterity that keeps the audience in the palm of her hand. Sometimes it is like an eloquent bombardment, working up to more emotional statements that are held as gorgeous vignettes. The silence is then broken with something more comical (such as “despite everyone’s best efforts, videoconferencing remains an underutilised resource”).
Amelia Lever-Davidson’s lighting and set design are ridiculously absorbing. Hall’s shadow upon the paper backdrop morphs, distorts, multiplies and sharpens, evoking unique responses to different opinions. Warm side lighting gives her the broody air of a revolutionary. Later, the back lighting completely engulfs Hall and we witness an anonymised silhouette make sweeping generalisations.
Eventually, Hall begins to interact with the set and sits holding a table lamp on her head as all other technical influences ebb away. She, by herself, has intimately captivated us all. After such a mechanical - almost percussive - beginning, here Hall’s gestures are smoother, slower and less literal. I start to wonder how much is real for her, how much she agrees with, who might have come up with this or that opinion, and how well she knows them.
We May Have To Choose is influenced by Hall’s disillusionment at her Facebook newsfeed in August 2014, and there is definitely an eerie familiarity to it. You like some of the opinions because you agree or because they’re funny, you object to some based on fallacy or ignorance, and some just become background noise against the larger canvas of personal expression. Even the way that Hall presents herself is nondescript; roomy black slacks with a shiny black belt, short-sleeved black shirt and her dark hair cut into a kind of bob that, when spotlit, made her shadow look startlingly like the default Facebook ‘female’ profile picture.
Part-stream of collective consciousness, part-juxtaposition of external and internal influences, We May Have to Choose really does challenge us to choose – not what we think or why, but how.
And that is more of a quest than a question.