Perhaps the most exciting aspect of spoken word as a medium is its lack of definition and therefore its incredible versatility. Whereas other performance arts could be accused of following habitual behaviours of the genre and falling into parameters, spoken word can be harnessed and applied in unique and interesting ways. Having caught a glimpse of Simon Mole at a Chill Pill event I attended earlier in the year, I was curious to see how he could extrapolate spoken word into a one man narrative whilst the audience gazed on from communal dinner tables.
Indiana Jones and the Extra Chair is the story of Mike meeting his mum's new boyfriend for the first time. As you may have guessed from that all too brief synopsis, the performance is obsessed with the intricacies and nuances of our relationships with loved ones as well as the subtext behind our words which are explored further when we become privy to their trains of thought. Mole chaotically but skilfully switches from each of the characters dialogue to their internal monologue to their own respective fantasies whilst keeping the show coherent and enjoyable. The frequent alternating makes sure that the play retains our attention throughout as Mole is keen to remove any steady ground our audience may find.
All of our characters escape from their reality by launching into flights of fancy channelling popular culture figures such as Indiana Jones, James Bond, etc. But as we soon discover these fantasies can't forever keep the wolf from the door as their real world worries and insecurities creep in. Much like the perspective, the tone to and fros from the irreverent to the gut wrenching and the scene which sees our three protagonists awkwardly stumble through a dinner induces the kind of embarrassment comedy that we recognise from The Office.
Criticisms are few and far between and the only one that I can think of probably owes more to my inherent awkwardness than the production. It's difficult to know how much attention to give the poets that perform table side before Mole's performance and the food you're eager not to spill down yourself. You're perennially feeling a pang of guilt as you avert your gaze towards your plate briefly and thus not giving your poet the undivided attention that their talent deserves.
Mole proves himself to be an engaging presence throughout, incredibly adept at both the comedic and dramatic elements; all strung together with a deeply enviable and beautiful turn of phrase. I'm keen to avoid the kind of hyperbole which permeates blogs and the internet more broadly but Indiana Jones and the Extra Chair is awesome in the truest sense that it inspired genuine awe.