Performance Live: The Way Out at Battersea Arts Centre
As part of their Performance Live, Battersea Arts Centre are presenting their unusual project The Way Out for free on BBC iPlayer for the next ten months. It’s always great to witness an artist, or a group of artists, creating something entirely fresh and new – and The Way Out is not merely refreshing in its uniqueness, but also in its successful execution; it’s a curious stumble through a very different wonderland.
Filmed in a single continuous shot of just over 40 minutes, the recording introduces us to the Outsider (Bláithín Mac Gabhann), who escapes into the Battersea Arts Centre where a well-spoken and enigmatic guide (Omid Djalili) leads her – and the viewers – through corridors, stages, halls, staircases and more. It’s a journey like no other; along the way, the Outsider is confronted with a diverse range of performance artists: singers, dancers, acrobats, and poets.
This show has no clear meaning at the end of it; instead, it invites the viewer to engage, reflect and contemplate. We do not know why the Outsider is there or what she is escaping from; nor do we know what she is meant to take from the experience – her wonderland is full of intense emotional journeys as she encounters different performances in each room, all the while supported by the guide’s mysterious riddles.
A lot of The Way Out’s power stems from the diverse range of artists involved. We are treated to Lucy McCormick, Le Gateau Chocolat, poet Sanah Ahsan, Too Hot for Candy, Caleb Femi, Botis Seva, and The Cocoa Butter Club. All deliver stellar performances, and while perhaps not everyone will enjoy each acting style, there is enough diversity to ensure that you will find something you like – all brought together with the invitation to muse about life.
The strongest summary of The Way Out is delivered by the guide himself. Towards the end of the play, he loosely quotes Emerson’s statement that life is a journey, not a destination – only to turn around and present Neil Armstrong’s view that the destination, not the journey, is what counts. It’s all about perspective, about seeing things in different ways, which will lead us to our goal.
The Way Out is an easy recommendation just through the sheer accomplishment of being interesting, different, well put together and highly engaging – a fantastic example of a collage of different works.