An old lady is about to be evicted from her home because an artist is doing an important site-specific response piece in the building. “Social cleansing under the cover of art”, she calls it and then a guy in a cat costume walks on and snarls at the audience. To call Ridiculusmus’ show The World Mouse Plague eccentric would be putting it mildly.
Despite an ominous warning in the blurb I didn’t actually have to wear a mouse costume which was both disappointing and, given the recent track record of gimmicky immersiveness in theatre land, a great relief. In a string of start-stop, narrative dimension shifts scenes that would have made Baudrillard proud the creators Jon Haynes and David Woods mix acute self-reflexive commentary with a seemingly whimsical performance style. The play is decidedly not above wordplay and silly Tom & Jerry slapstick chases around the auditorium. The two performers scurry around the stage in crappy whiskers and impressive fur tails to give Arts Council Funding tick box theatre projects an elaborate meta-kicking. They’re shit, they say, well, mouse droppings, anyway.
It’s ceaseless. “Are you with Punchdrunk?”, the performer teases someone in the front row after accusing them of sabotaging the show by deleting material from their show, an immersive durational headphone verbatim allegory of stage four genocide. If you’re not in on the joke it’s just one long bizarre sequence of two guys dressed as mice talking about infestations and Holocaust novels.
Although surprisingly firm in its moral stance on role of the artist in the gentrification process these themes are tangential and only tucked into folds of a metatheatre piece which demands the audience to be on the ball. For it to work it needs the audience to care about conventions of established and emerging theatrical formats. Only then it manages to infuse criticism from within a performance context itself.