The Zero Hour - review

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One big moment in history, three distinct takes on its outcome – and that’s the easy bit out of the way.

Act it all out within three panels that open and close inside a full-sized cinema screen, that then projects the live-action story back on to the main screen.

The video photography is in the hands of a Chinese camera crew and the fragmentary scenes are often shot out of sequence.

Then add occasional sub-titles, since this is the end of World War Two and the three conflicted couples involved in its aftermath are British, German and Russian.

Oh, and every now and then a Chinese academic fills the screen delivering a paper on the Tesla effect theory of time travel.

So if the stage isn’t exactly set, then certainly all the components are in place for an audacious piece of homegrown theatre - co-writer Andrew Quick is a Lancaster writer and director who teaches at the university.

He combines here with Leeds-based theatre innovators Imitating The Dog, who added the digital designs to last year’s Sherlock Holmes adventure seen at the Dukes Theatre in Lancaster.

This goes considerably further in exploring a non-linear narrative that pushes at all the boundaries of both theatre and cinema, and perhaps audience expectation as well?

Peter Greenaway’s film work, and especially Michael Nyman’s score spring to mind.

Zero Hour is certainly a multi-channel experience and you have to marvel at the synchronisation of digital backdrops and technology plus a skilled cast of nine who weave their way through it all framed like characters in a video war-game.

Whether it all works is maybe not the point because this venue, even under its awkward umbrella title Live at LICA, is fast becoming a major national incubator of experimental productions.

This is high-concept theatre, or is it cinema, that demands to be seen by the makers of both. It might just be the future?

David Upton