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Unexploded Ordnances (UXO) – 3 Stars


Unexploded Ordnances (UXO)

The Pit, Barbican

Reviewed – 15th May 2018


“Shaw and Weaver are warm and engaging, with a relaxed and easy to watch control about proceedings”


In the current political climate, to many the world appears to be at the brink of catastrophe at a moment’s notice. Much like a dormant explosive lying beneath a public park. This pessimistic trend traces back from the Cold War, and the threat of the nuclear bomb, the inspiration for Stanley Kubrick’s Dr Strangelove in 1964. Unexploded Ordnances, devised by Split Britches, manages to take these elements and links them to our fear of ageing, and subsequently death.

We are invited into The Situation Room, instructed by Madam President and a General. We begin by acknowledging where we are, and the history of the land which we inhabit. From this point we create the Council of Elders, made up of the oldest in the audience, who throughout are consulted upon their worries and their fears for the future. Throughout these sections the two performers, Lois Weaver and Peggy Shaw, perform a variety of short interludes, whether comprised of movement sequences or short dialogue scenes. Structurally the piece is loose and languid, intentionally so.

What is unique about this show is the opportunities for audience members to shape the action. We get to know these people from what they reveal, and so rests on those participating. The problem is this crux of the show does feel somewhat forced. For example, if you ask older members of the public their fears for the future, and then wonder if society is pessimistic, it would appear obvious that this would be the outcome from a question such as that.

Shaw and Weaver are warm and engaging, with a relaxed and easy to watch control about proceedings under Weaver’s own direction. Their interactions with their participants are open and warm, never patronising and always willing to listen. In terms of the characters they play, Shaw lends the General a wry repetitive gruffness while Weaver’s President moves with an effort that evokes the weary troubles of growing older.

While interesting overall this piece feels rather light and fails to reveal much that we could not uncover before. It is however beautifully performed and complimented by a crisp technical design from Jo Palmer. The performance has a managed easiness that is fascinating to watch. With much potential to explore, Split Britches stumble towards profundity, but end up slightly thin.


Reviewed by Callum McCartney

Photography by Theo Cote


Unexploded Ordnances (UXO)

The Pit, Barbican until 19th May



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