Do You Know What You Know You Know?

Boxes - Do you know...?

Described by one audience member as “Q.I. in performance art form”, Do you know what you know you know? encourages it’s audience to see the world in a new and more interesting way and not to accept things at face value. The piece was created by ‘In Search of the Yeti’ theatre company and was a fun and playful journey thorough different fantasy worlds.

To enter the performance space, the audience crawl through a fabric tree draped in front of the doorway. Expecting to come into some magical fantasy world, they are surprised to be faced with four female office workers, hunched over their keyboards with blank expressions on their faces. Although this image creates the impression of a boring office, the world is not quite right. The keyboards, which sit on large cardboard boxes, are not connected to anything and their leads trail on the floor.

When the audience are seated, the performers begin to type. The typing continues sporadically for a few minutes. Just as the endless typing is becoming monotonous, one performer stands up abruptly and pushes the boxes out from the under the other typists who instantly freeze.

Using the boxes to create a doorway, she then produces a small tube of glitter. The performer playfully sprinkles the glitter over the boxes and the audience. Finally she sprinkles some of this magical fairy-dust over herself and prepares to dive through the doorway. At the same time, the other performers drop to the floor and move backwards through their chairs, dragging their chairs behind them.

The lights change as the first performer emerges into the new world and is faced with three strange creatures who quote numbers and rules at her. The visitor is unperturbed by this and counters their strangeness by handing out small music boxes to each of these creatures. They open their music boxes and begin to eat what’s inside.

Chair peopleThree strange creatures

It quickly becomes clear that this is a childish world where childish rules apply. The music boxes contain spinach to make you strong, bread crusts to make your hair curly and carrots to help you see in the dark. The performers show these rules through mime from their positions behind their chairs.

Once the music boxes stop playing, the visitor puts up a black umbrella and facing the audience, starts reciting news stories. A connection is made between the stories that we believe as children and our unquestioning acceptance of what we are told by the media. The last news story states that carrots do absolutely nothing for your eyesight. As the visitor puts down her umbrella, the lights go out.

Still in black-out, a disembodied voice speaks over the microphone. It says “In the beginning there was nothing.” The phrase is repeated three times. Still in the dark, a small light appears behind the curtain. The light moves playfully, flicking onto the ceiling and dancing around. The voice speaks again; “But there was something. Because nothing is still something. And this something began expanding and expanding and expanding….” The voice trails off as spinning mirror ball is illuminated and the black room fills with twirling stars.

The space theme is continued as a spotlight illuminates a woman standing alone in the light, as if she is on her own little planet. She begins blowing up balloons and sending them off into space. Each balloon has a message on it; an attempt to communicate with whatever might be out there. One the other side of the stage, another performer sits engrossed in a computer game. She never notices the balloons and stays completely engrossed in her own world until the final balloon is popped suddenly spilling more glitter on the floor. Then she looks up to the sky.

The idea of spending hours lost in a computer game is expanded in the next scene. UV light transforms the space and the only part of the performers that can be seen is their white hands and feet. Two performers return to the keyboards, typing out endless sequences and sentences while Looper’s “The Modem Song” (a piece of music based around the sound of a modem connecting to the internet) begins to play. The other two performers sit between them and perform a choreographed movement piece, as if they were controlled by the typists.

Manic, UV movement

The movement becomes more manic as the music changes and all four suddenly pull back the black curtains that enclose the space. This reveals the back wall, which has been plastered with images and text, much of it glowing in the UV light. They then peel off their clothes revealing text, images and symbols covering much of their bodies. These symbols also glow under the UV light, looking like tribal markings.

When the music and the manic movement stop, the four performers takes off their white gloves and puts on one of the cardboard boxes from the first scene. They have already transformed the space and now they transform themselves. A space has been cut into each box for the performers head. Other holes allow other limbs to be reach out of the boxes; two hands comes out of the front of one box, a single arm extends from the top of another, both arms poked out of each side of a third and a single finger peeps out beside the head of the fourth.

The four performers in their boxes is a strange and humorous image and the audience is allowed to enjoy this image and read what they like into it as the individuals in their boxes stare back at them. The scene ends with a single line that sums up the whole piece, a quote from Einstein “Imagination is more important that knowledge.”

The “box people” then return to the keyboards and attempt to type as they did at the beginning. It’s not possible; the world is not the same as it was then. Everything has changed.

As the audience leave, they are given goodie-bags to take with them. Each bag contains a party popper, a brightly coloured kid’s plaster, a little note with idea or instruction to follow and yet more glitter!

Do you know what you know you know? was performed in the black box studio at Brunel University on the 12th March 2008.

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