Theatre review: Mountaineering at the Roundhouse

Non Zero One's Mountaineering. Picture: Charlie Johnson

Non Zero One's Mountaineering. Picture: Charlie Johnson - Credit: Archant

Non Zero One’s unsubtle examination of first world problems makes for an unsettling personal experience, finds Kate Samuelson.

“It felt like a therapy session”, I hear someone remark on the way out of the Roundhouse. “And not in a good way.” I can’t help but feel the same. After ninety minutes at Mountaineering, the latest venture from immersive theatre company Non Zero One, I’m fed up of analysing the different directions my life could have gone in.

Recreating the experience of listening to a late night radio show, headphone-clad audience members watch a video of a car driving home on the cinema screen in front as they are transported down the motorway of their past. “An hour ago, where were you?” asks ‘DJ’ John Hunter, the only visible performer. “And what about ten years ago?”

There is no subtly to Mountaineering. From being asked to put your hand up if you’re a “grown up” to philosophising on the meaning behind your crisp flavour of choice (out of a rather unimaginative selection of three), Non Zero One’s desperation to make the audience feel nostalgic soon becomes grating.

Cringe-inducing audience participation, including being asked to turn to a designated stranger and gaze deeply in their eyes, is interspersed with short clips of adults and children discussing their various life choices.

From the elderly Pat, whose whole life was turned upside down after the death of her husband, to a little boy who reveals his dreams of being “a snorkeler… or a spy”, these funny and moving multimedia additions are a welcome interruption to the pathetic first-world problems posed by Hunter.

It’s not all bad. As well as these charming clips, the eclectic soundtrack – which features Destiny’s Child, Tom Johnston and George Ezra – is a fitting accompaniment to the intentionally hazy graphics on stage. The performance is slick and while occasionally irritating, Hunter’s dulcet tones are perfect for those of a late night DJ.

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Although highly original, Mountaineering’s lack of subtly and assumption that every person in the audience had every life choice available to them makes it a troublesome watch – or should I say, ‘experience’. It’s a performance that will stay with me for a long time, although whether that is for good or bad reasons I am yet to decide.

Rating: 2/5 stars