The Guardian 22.10.99
From the moment that then audience is greeted and checked in for your flight by a Barbie-faced air hostess, crammed into the aircraft fuselage and offered safety instructions, peanuts and duty free, it is clear that this is going to be no ordinary journey.
On October 12 1972 a plane, chartered by an amateur rugby team, left Uruguay for Santiago. It never arrived. Then the wreckage of the planed was located in the Andes some weeks later, search parties were amazed to discover some survivors. There were also the cannibalised remains of those who hadn’t made it.
Shunt’s performance does not tell you much that you don’t already know from Alive, the book or the film of the episode , and thematically it is merely a variation on Lord of the Flies. But stylistically, there is a sly absurdism in the way they tell their tale- the remaining members of the team begin their grisly quest for survival with a ritualised suburban tea party complete with tablecloth.
Dining al fresco take
on new meaning as each in turn murmurs “excuse me” with the
politeness of Captain Oates and disappears for a quick snack only to return
a few minutes later with their chins dripping saliva. The cheerful horror
of this is very effective.
Too much of the rest of the performance seems like padding and this young company had not yet entirely grasped the fact that either doing things very slowly or to a deafening soundtrack does not make them more interesting to an audience. The 60 minutes has plenty of surprises, but is too slack in both structure and purpose to entirely grab the attention.
Shunt play very cleverly with illusion, space and sound so that the sense of dislocation and confusion experienced by the survivors is also experienced by the audience.
I never felt the slightest desire to gnaw at the arms of my companions, but as the aircraft appeared to start losing height and had a sense of falling through the air for what seemed like hours, I did feel an unaccountable thrill of terror. “Bloody Hell”, yelled a woman in the audience as our paper fuselage ripped apart and we were suddenly somewhere else entirely. Bloody Hell indeed. This is fledgling work, but I reckon this company may eventually soar.