Shaking the Habitual
- Deborah Chu
- 22 November 2018
Perfectly-pitched absurdist theatre from Platform Young Company
The majority of Shaking the Habitual can be summed up thusly: seven performers enact scenes of mundane activity over and over again, with slight variation, in time with the same Italian aria broadcasting on repeat from a small record player.
Absurdist theatre of this type is not new: the influence of predecessors such as Forced Entertainment's Real Magic is writ large over this production. But whereas Real Magic sets out to push an audience's endurance to the limit, Shaking the Habitual is crafted in such a way as to keep its viewers teetering between exasperation and enjoyment. Much of the performance's success in this area is down to its sharp comedic sensibility — allowing an audience's hackles to rise, only for the tension to be swiftly punctured with a well-placed entrance or a single look. By the mid-point of the show, the mere act of a performer striding back on stage with a stack of printer paper is enough to leave some howling with laughter. The act of looking also plays a significant role in diffusing the frustration. The performers long (and long-suffering) gazes out to the audience fosters a sense of strange camaraderie, as if to say: don't worry, we know this is agony. But what can be done?
It's this very resignation that belies Shaking the Habitual's radical political statement: poking fun at the inanity of corporate culture, the pressure to conform to peer groups. Beyond its political messaging though, the physicality of the performances and the grey wash of the set design is slick and stylish, reminiscent of Chaplin-era silent films. Unfortunately the show's tight management of time and tension stumbles towards the end of the production during a solo dance sequence which — while beautifully performed — runs overlong and deprives the climax of its visceral effect. Despite these fumbles, Shaking the Habitual stands out as easily one of the more enjoyable works in the absurdist vein.