Staging Wittgenstein *****

Theatre (comedy, physical theatre)

C Venues – C (Venue 34).

August 17-22, 24-28


After the show my friend amused me with a story about Wittgenstein’s brother – how he decided to become a concert pianist after the war despite having lost an arm in it. There’s something sublimely gung-ho about such a career choice when sporting that specific disability. Likewise, I came out of the show ‘Staging Wittgenstein’ with the distinct impression that not only does artfully clambering inside a giant latex balloon look like great fun, but such an act also proves to be a sublimely gung-ho way to make a point about the nature of reality.

My own experience of studying Wittgenstein was during my anthropology degree, where we explored his theory of Language Games in the context of culture and language being inextricably interwoven and mutually-creating. I liked the guy then, more so upon reading his life history (he really was a delightfully strange creature, as was his family), and even MORE so now I’ve seen ‘Staging Wittgenstein’.

It’s a story of two adorably enigmatic Balloon People and their side-eyeing helper, who are trying to communicate using simple language, organised into rules and subsequently played with, like the kind of game where the very act of playing means trying to break various health-and-safety, good taste and logistical rules. Jenga… with timber and a forklift. Cards Against Humanity… with elderly relatives. Strip Coconut Oil Twister… with everyone you’ve ever dated simultaneously… (actually a very good point is also being made about the many uses of coconut oil, which I appreciated on an entirely different level).

The show is extremely short and blissfully weird. If anything, too short, and for some, too weird. Perfect for my tiny bladder and giant boner for the absurd however. I’ve heard it described as pretentious and indeed several audience members did leave the room shaking their heads in a primitive form of communication, presumably regarding their initial sense of disbelief. Nevertheless, I absolutely loved ‘Staging Wittgenstein’. It blew my mind. I can’t justify knocking off any stars because of my only two criticisms: that I could’ve happily watched their adorable little Balloon faces all day long; or that now I have to spend precious time googling ‘where buy giant latex balloons’, ‘how rent balloon inflators’ and ‘can buy industrial quantities of coconut oil’. So, this may be controversial, but five stars. Good show, guys! 

Jo Harrison