Wednesday saw me waiting for an age for a correct tube that wasn’t on the District Line and saw me heave myself into a seat on the second row of the Barbican with one minute to spare. Bloody tubes, I feel like a proper Londoner know I’ve felt the wrath of public transport and vocalised it. Loudly.
Complicite’s “A Disappearing Number” has already been at the Barbican when it was initially conceived back last year. I am an avid fan of Nitin Sawhney, as those of you who actually know me will realise, and it was a pleasure to see something scored by him and crafted into a piece of theatre.
The piece itself was a mixed narrative about the importance of numbers. It starts of with a mathematician and a white board giving the whole hall a lecture of patterns in numbers. We then see a narrator who introduces each character we will set eyes upon and up front he announces that they are all actors and not real. But the reality that he cannot deny is the power of the numbers and how they work.
I set myself up for a complete physical piece of theatre but this was more cinematic. Yes it was smooth and everything meticulously arranged so it flowed to a stupid degree where absolutely nothing went wrong… but they didn’t make it easy for themselves. They had, essentially, three narrative plots set in the past, the present and the future. There were flashbacks, flashforwards and splicings of media recordings as well as solid movement and live tabla. All in all it was breathtaking and emotional. You see the pain all over the stage in the past and the present and it’s all sown together neatly with the aid of numbers and their meaning. The thread of importance that numbers have to each character delves deeper (this is something Nitin Sawhney and Simon McBurney talk about in the video up at the top; click on the photograph and it should take you to a youtube page).
It truly was a spectacle and encompassed everything you could imagine; live music, dancing, plot, movement, timing, humour and true emotion. Anyone who comes out of seeing this and expresses that they are not moved needs to re-assess; something doesn’t add up. (Bad punnage there). I, myself, am terrible when it comes to numbers but you don’t need to be a whizz with the subject because the themes are universal and what’s more you’ll probably come out with a new appreciation for those whose who can ‘do’ mathematics.