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Roundhouse’s new show, Mountaineering, provides theatre where you make the choices

PUBLISHED: 13:55 28 January 2015

Mountaineering. Picture: John Hunter

Mountaineering. Picture: John Hunter

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Alex Bellotti talks to Cat Harrison from artistic collective Non Zero One about their interactive new show ‘Mountaineering’

To adopt a common phrase, there’s increasing demand in art for the personal to be the theatrical. Through companies such as Punchdrunk and Secret Cinema, young audiences have developed a penchant for immersive performance and as a result, stages are opening up to artists from very different backgrounds.

Non Zero One is a perfect example of such artistic collectives. They met at Royal Holloway University and have combined their various expertises in photography, music, dance, film and theatre to form a super-group capable of merging every element into interactive theatre shows.

Formed in 2009, they bring their latest work, Mountaineering, to the Roundhouse from Feb 3-15. As performance art specialist Cat Harrison explains, their bond as a collective formed as much through technology as art.

“It was because we have a very different vocabulary when we talk that we came up with slightly out of the box situations,” she says of why they began, “but also I think it was just about the fact that we use technology every day of our lives.

“It seemed unusual that we’d be chatting via mobile phones and using mp3s, then as soon as we started talking about the theatre we wanted to make, it was completely text based. We thought why not bring more of that everyday technology into the theatre?”

Mountaineering is the group’s biggest project since their show, Antarctica, enjoyed a spell at the National theatre in 2012. Recreating the experience of a late night drive listening to love songs on the radio, it provides audiences with a pair of headphones, from which they can make choices about the music and events they want to follow.

Combining live performance with film and multimedia, it allows Non Zero One to connect more intimately with each person, but also encourages a collective curiosity as to what other paths might have been followed.

“We live in a society where everything is as personalised as possible,” says Harrison. “Whether that’s a good thing or not, it feels like even the commercial sector is personalised, from the gifts we give people to our everyday use of 2.0 Google where you’re targeted personally for things to buy.

“We really love it when people go for a drink after the show and realise they’ve had different experiences and compare them with each other. People are able to have conversations and grow closer as a community through the experiences they’ve had as much as a shared experience.”

Harrison describes the piece as a coming of age story, though she adds it’s appropriate for all ages, having interviewed everyone from five to 75 year olds during the research stages.

“It’s very typical of our age that we’ve made this big piece about decision making, because we’re all turning 30 and our friends are getting married and having babies, so you think about what decisions to make in your life.

“We ask people very specifically how did you get to the position you’re in now, whether that’s geographically, emotionally or career-wise.”

The theatre, it seems, cares more about you than ever before.

Mountaineering runs from Tuesday until February 15. Visit roundhouse.org.uk

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