nytheatre.com review by Will Fulton
January 6, 2010
After the immense success of Etiquette at the Under the Radar Festival in 2008, London-based Rotozaza has returned to New York with another mind-bending theatrical experience. GuruGuru, smartly conceived and directed by Ant Hampton, is the latest piece in Rotozaza's exploration of "autoteatro," in which headphone-guided audience members perform and experience the work.
On arriving at P.S. 122, you are assigned an identity via nametag and led into a small white room with four fellow audience members/performers. Headphones sit on each of the labeled seats in a semicircle around a television that leads the session. Individual instructions on what to do and say are dispensed gradually, allowing you to come to terms with who these other people in the room are, and who you are. Although a bit jarring at first, you quickly settle into the rhythm of it and develop a sense of character so you can have fun with the directions.
Joji Koyama's animation and video work is quirky, vaguely unsettling, and quite wonderful. The Guru (well-voiced by Peter Donaldson) is reminiscent of early 2000s Flash animation (as a side note, I am still processing the fact that I can say that and it means something), harkening back to an era when the seams of digital culture were a little more apparent. Isambard Khroustaliov's soundscape is a hypnotic amalgam of samples and digital noise, using particularly well the interplay between the speakers and the headphones to both supplement and obfuscate each other in turn.
For me to give away much more information about the content of the show would detract from the fun of discovering the piece on your own. However, I will say, as someone who spends a lot of time thinking about media and digital culture, that Hampton has created an intelligent, nuanced, and wry critique of the mindlessness engendered by our collective autoamputation through digital technology. At the end, when the headphones were removed, it took us a remarkably long time to motivate ourselves into action, which speaks to what an effective experiment Rotozaza had conducted on us. Anyone looking for a unique and thoroughly enjoyable theatrical experience would be remiss not to check out GuruGuru.