Super Night Shot
nytheatre.com review by Will Fulton
January 5, 2012
On arriving at The Public, the audience is asked to line the hallway outside the Newman Theater, leading up to a banner proclaiming “The End.” After a few minutes of waiting, the intrepid members of British/German performance collective Gob Squad make their triumphant return, cameras in hand. The audience gives them a hero's welcome with cheering and streamers, unwittingly acting out the final scene of the film they are about to watch. Super Night Shot actually begins one hour (the length of a single DV tape) before the audience arrives, as four members of the Squad synchronize their watches and prepare to take to the streets with cameras to wage a “war on anonymity.” New York can be a notoriously impersonal place, where “each of us is just one in a million, easy to replace and easy to forget in a town that doesn't really need us.” Gob Squad sets out to change that by rallying the collective potential human energy of the blocks surrounding The Pubic Theater and Astor Place to create a moment of transcendence and transformation, to take one of their members and make him, for just one night, into a hero for the city of New York.
Each of the four members of the squad, rotated each performance from the company roster, has a particular role to play in constructing the climactic moment, such as public relations or location scouting, and the length of one tape to record their attempt to do so. The show itself is the four feeds of their respective cameras, played simultaneously across the stage with no cuts. A sound editor mixes the audio live, directing attention between the feeds and occasionally overlaying music. This leads to surprising and delightful moments of synchronicity, where through mysterious coordination the four scenes will all gel into a rap video or a dramatic, slow-motion spin. They achieve a perfect balance of structure and spontaneity to make it feel deliberate, but still vital. What really grounds it is the wry charm of its performers. Earnestly committed to their mission, but joyously tongue-in-cheek in their execution, the Squad members are endlessly likable in their quirkiness, which is essential to their success in striking up friendly conversation with the random pedestrians they happen to encounter on any given night.
This element of chaos is what makes the show so exciting. It has the spark of an improv show, but replaces the dynamic component of audience suggestion with the stochastic engine of New York City itself. The limitation of a particular radius around the theater and the specificity of the mission provides just enough rigidity to let the city do the rest of the work. New York lives up to its reputation for being full of delightful weirdos. During the rap video moment a passerby decided to jump in with a pretty great freestyle. Since premiering in Berlin, the readily transportable form of Super Night Shot has been dropped into cities around the world. I am led to wonder how the distinct character of each city comes through and colors the piece. If New York is at all typical, I have no doubt that the oddball wit of Gob Squad can bring out the best of any city, transforming their prosaica into magic and heroes, proving their claim that, “without the banal there wouldn't be anything remarkable.”