“A play creates its own world where things can be done differently”, states the preface to Total Immediate Collective Imminent Terrestrial Salvation. And author, co-director and performer Tim Crouch knows one thing or two about the rules of dramaturgy. Most importantly, he knows how to break them – and in this piece made in collaboration with the National Theatre of Scotland, he continues to push and experiment as ever.
As the audience sit in a circle, we are given a green book: it is the play, the script, the story that they – or more correctly we – are about to bring to life. It is the story of a family broken by a terrible accident, and how the father, unable to forgive himself, begins his search to retrieve what he has lost. Years pass through the pages (beautifully illustrated by Rachana Jadhav), as we are instructed by the actors on stage when to turn them. Some of us are even asked to stand up and read along with them. Nobody in the room can escape the script, actors and audience alike – the development of the story depends on it – with the only exception of the father (Crouch) who is the Narrator, the Author, the Creator of this whole world that is unfolding in front of our eyes and to which we are invited to actively participate – albeit without having any choice on the denouement, let alone the ending.
Immediate Collective Imminent Terrestrial Salvation is yet another great study from the mind that gave us works like The Author or An Oak Tree. It deals with parallel universes, creation, dramaturgy, but what really struck me was probably the implications on free will. We soon discover that the father is the one who wrote the book we are reading; interestingly enough, he is the only one on stage without a script. “Playwrights are also leaders – dictators, even – no matter how egalitarian they proclaim to be,” Crouch continues. I start to think that we unknowingly became complicit to his plan. Looking back on it now, it feels like it was an exercise in manipulation.
Yet, it probably still needs a bit more polishing, as some choices seemed a bit incoherent. For example, the few times the actors were allowed to go off script really stood out as revolutionary acts of freedom, but what do they mean if framed against the authority that built the whole universe these acts are being performed in? Do they have to mean anything at all?
It has been days since I saw Immediate Collective Imminent Terrestrial Salvation and new ideas take form, new possible readings and interpretation. It could be a piece that, years from now, we continue to discover at each new reading.