Unexploded Ordnances is a patchwork of influences and inspirations (3 stars)

Unexploded Ordnances is a patchwork of influences and inspirations

credit Matt Delbridge

Split Britches present a a fusion of inclusive reality theatre and a parody of Kubrick's Dr Strangelov

The legendary performance company, Split Britches, have been working on the frontiers between theatre, performance art and political engagement since 1980: Lois Weaver and Peggy Shaw – creators and performers – continue to address both global concerns and intimate anxieties with panache in Unexploded Ordnances, a fusion of inclusive reality theatre and a parody of Kubrick's Dr Strangelove.

The two elements – a 'council of elders' assembled from the audience, and Weaver and Shaw's satirical interludes that take their cues from paranoid Cold War culture – don't always mesh easily, working at different paces. The council sequences are slow, thoughtful and moving, while the parodies of the film are brash and sharp-talking. Yet over an hour, the show makes a claim for the compassion and seriousness of an elder generation, educated beneath the shadow of the mushroom cloud, finally rejecting pessimism and scrabbling for inspiration in a collection of unrealised desires harvested from, again, the audience.

Aside from respecting the opinions of a generation often disregarded or disrespected – or blamed for Brexit – UXO recognises the problems of theatre's innate hierarchies, acknowledging the importance of the spectators, place and historical moment in the making of meaning. Gently allowing the council of elders to express their fears, Split Britches break the usual boundaries between actor and observing, leading to a profoundly emotional moment as one elder – a critic – made a connection between individual disappointment and anxiety about the consequences of climate change.

While Weaver and Shaw are always engaging and charming performers, their dialogues operated as a framing device, and never quite developed the potential suggested in their confidently performed speeches and bouts of banter. Yet swerving so boldly away from expectations, fracturing the established structure of theatre and permitting the baby boomers a space of their own, Split Britches are still opening up new frontiers.

Part of Take Me Somewhere.

Take Me Somewhere

The spirit of The Arches lives on in this festival of contemporary international performance.

Unexploded Ordnances (UXO)

Split Britches present a Dr Strangelove -inspired performance exploring ageing, anxiety, hidden desires and more.