Describing O! No as a one man show feels misleading, given Jaimie Wood’s collaborative approach to performance art. I’m speaking from experience here: at one point during the performance, I am enlisted as a member of an orchestra, playing a makeshift instrument supposedly symbolising ‘the expansion and contraction of dreams in this world’. At another point, I am told to enact my own death before the audience.
While this level of public attention would normally make me squirm, I get off rather light. Indeed, one woman is invited to join Wood in a large bag, strip naked with him and discuss her experiences of love (I still have great awe for the audience member who rather courageously took up the challenge). While the show is ostensibly about Wood’s attempts to channel the spirit of John Lenon, this conceit acts as little more than a springboard, allowing the audience and Wood to fluidly create together.
Wood’s humour is deeply irreverent, and there’s a tongue and cheek element to his set pieces, which grow increasingly surreal. His cross-disciplinary approach give the show a rather frenetic quality that leaves you feeling perennially wrong-footed. Wood is constantly turning corners and rarely telegraphing his next move; almost without warning, a sing-along will give way to a group performance piece. Anyone seeking a coherent narrative or lucid statement will find this show particularly frustrating. However, in many ways Wood illustrates some of the best aspects of performance art and its potential as a form, dedicating himself to provocative gestures and surrendering the meaning of his work to the crowd. Borrowing tactics from improv and sketch comedy (Kim Noble seems a comparable analogue), Wood demonstrates that even abstract ‘concept shows’ can be vividly enjoyable. 4/5
Review written by Sean Gilbert.
O! No was performed at this year’s Latitude Festival from Thursday 14th until Sunday 17th July. For more information on the festival, visit here…