Review: Gobstoppers (Angel Theatre, online)

Comprised of solo pieces filmed on mobile phones, with close-ups of eyes and mouths, hands, as the actors perform their pieces – Gobstoppers is a fine addition to the digital theatre space.

Conceptualised and directed by John Patterson, AD at Angel Theatre, this fundraiser runs until 5 April for free: although donations are requested to Acting for Others, if you can afford to do so.

The writers include Amy Allen, Anna Bonnett, Brian Coyle, Stephen Donald, Barbara Garfath, D.L.Lean, John Patterson and Scott Younger. Their pieces are not really connected in any way, other than their internal monologue structure.

Screencap from Gobstoppers

The way they are filmed is very experimental and extremely exposing. How many people want their facial features scrutinised in this manner, at such close quarters, by strangers?

These are very personal pieces with an improvisational feel. Some are in colour, some black and white, some feed off each other, some stand apart: all are accessible. There is never a moment where I felt bored or frustrated with what I was watching.

Digital theatre should play with the form and not be afraid of letting the audience up close, and Gobstoppers truly innovates in a number of areas. However, I should warn that this is not a show that you should expose your children to unless you want a couple of awkward conversations!

Screencap from Gobstoppers

Gobstoppers is a showcase for the human experience – and the variance between people which make us not just look different, but act differently. There are younger voices and older voices at play here; voices across the whole spectrum of the experience of sentient beings.

Some pieces are very short, others have more space to develop: these are pieces which hint at the complexity of life and the choices we make as we go on our journey from birth to death.

I came away from Gobstoppers thinking about how we interpret our personal ‘image’ or ‘brand’, and the discrepancy between how we see ourselves (mostly via mirrors, which distort) and how others assess us. There are deep issues at the heart of this piece, whether political, familial, sexual, or rational.

Screencap from Gobstoppers

It is a complex piece which challenges, educates, confuses, and entertains. Just what experimental theatre should be. At just short of an hour you may be able to slot it in if you want to see something slightly off the beaten track.

Gobstoppers is performed by past, present and future members of the Angel Theatre Company including Amy Allen, Anna Bonnett, Joanna Clarke, Kieran Dooner, Louis Fox, Malcolm Jeffries, Samantha Kamras, Sarah Kerr, John Patterson, Jasmine Raymond, Denise Rocard, Christie Silvester and Theo Watt.

You can view Gobstoppers via until 5 April 2021.

I interviewed John Patterson in February 2020 about his Beckett triple bill at the Jack Studio – read it here.