27 by Peter McMaster
Contact, Manchester [21.06.17]
It’s dark. There are two men in glow in the dark skeleton onesies. I think a Nirvana song is playing (it’s not Smells Like Teen Spirit so who knows). Pitch black. Silence. A glow. We are then asked to imagine a woman. A woman who is laying on her side whilst giving birth. The woman is Peter’s mother.
27 is not just a story about growing into a 27 year old man. I feel that if this were the case, I’d likely have not been able to relate with the piece because a) i’m not 27 yet b) i’m not a man and c) i’m not white. 27 however does something quite special in that it is able to transcend these states and their associated experiences and deliver a series of time conscious moments that encourage us to reflect on ourselves. In hearing Peter and Nick’s journeys from birth to their 27th year, we participate in what can only be described as a game of snakes and ladders in which no one is sure of who is rolling the dice. Everything from successfully lodging a marble up your nose to first attempts at masturbation and relationships to your mother reading your diary are a plenty in these honest journeys through time.
To the surprise of many audience members, we are each asked to assist either Peter or Nick in undressing. Those sat on the peripheries of the horseshoe seating arrangement are tasked with assisting with the unzipping of the onesies and pulling of sleeves and, those of us sat towards the middle are tasked with removing the bottom half of the onesie. In my case, the chosen action was firm grip and a quick tug and down come the bottoms… it’s always interesting when you put a naked body in a space (or in this case two). The state of vulnerability in the room drastically changes and it can become hard to know who feels more vulnerable: the actors or the audience. When Peter and Nick invite the audience to touch their bodies and invite themselves to sit and lay on audience members, they are met with mixed reactions. Everything from laughter, to avoidance, to just not knowing how to react is expressed by audience members.
The only time I find bare bodies particularly amusing is when watching The Full Monty. External to this, I often feel that I am witnessing the greatest piece of art in existence and this applies to all bodies no matter what they look like. Scenarios such as this remind me of the first time I went to a life drawing class and on that day I felt like it was the first time I had truly seen another person. Peter and Nick welcomed us to see them.
They then engaged in quite a full on, rough and tumble fight (Catherine Cookson eat your heart out) around the floor. I have to say I hadn’t expected to spend my Wednesday evening watching two men rolling around the floor in some cocoa powder-esque sand… I usually spend this time at a writers workshop. Chuck in a splash of Wild Horses with no Susan Boyle in sight and mate, you’re on to a winner here.
What follows is a cascade of a phone call to Peter’s mother, a falling dominoes scenario where the men catch each other and a barrage of apologies for bad decisions. In watching Peter and Nick take each other’s weight truthfully and then swap roles to fall into their next moment, we as an audience, are given a rude awakening to the repetitive nature of life and exposed to the importance of brief moments and the beauty of their short lifespan. 27 reminds us that whatever age we are, we a changing and we are choosing but, most importantly that we are living and that whether you make the right choice or the wrong choice, the thing that truly matters is the journey along the way.
Verdict: 27 is an honest and witty piece of storytelling that creates a shared vulnerability and window of self exploration within a theatre space. Worth experiencing.