SHOW: The Quiet Volume
GROUP: Ant Hampton and Tim Etchells
ATTENDED: Tues., Sept. 10, 6:45pm, Free Library of Philadelphia
CLOSED: Sun., Sept. 22
BRIEF SELF-DESCRIPTION: “In a public library, during regular hours, two audience members sit side-by-side with headphones on. Taking cues from words written and whispered, they burrow an unlikely path through a pile of books and come upon the strange magic at the heart of the reading experience.”
WE THINK: The Quiet Volume has probably the smallest audience of any Fringe show this year: two people. So, I brought along my friend and local playwright Sam Henderson, whose work was featured earlier in the Fringe in Philly Improv Theater’s Page One.
When we arrive at the library, we are fitted with iPods and headphones, then sat down at a table on the second floor. On the headphones, a man with a British accent starts telling us to do things, like listen to how un-quiet the library truly is. When he comments about the clacking of footsteps, there were actual footsteps from a lady walking by us, which was freaky. Soon, he has us look through the separate notebooks in front of us both. When the man stops talking, we read a text about how even when we read, there’s still a voice in our head, the voice we read in. (Try listening to it now.) Our narrator comes back on and makes us think of a blank notebook page as an untouched field of snow.
Then we’re told to do different things with four different books: José Saramago’s Blindness, Kazuo Ishiguro’s When We Were Orphans, a collection of novels by Agota Kristof and Cityscapes, a photography book by Gabriele Basilico. These things included following the readings with our fingers, reading upside down and alternately pointing to words “snow” and “hole,” while binaural background sounds make you think people are shuffling around behind you.
By the end, it made us both think about the act of reading and the intricacies of it in weirdly real time. Sam says: “In theater and storytelling, you tell people. Telling people is fine. Showing people is better telling them. And what’s even better than showing people is making them do stuff. Because you show yourself.” It was a very unique experience, which is usually pretty rare.
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