UK Theatre Company Imitating the Dog explore a fusion of live action, recorded footage and animation in their perplexing piece The Zero Hour. Blending cinematic qualities with live theatre, The Zero Hour explores the different accounts of three couples in the final moments of WW2 Berlin. Through these different versions of the same ‘moment’ the characters lives at once connect, and fail to connect.
These characters are actors, filmed by a Chinese modern day film crew, and their lives are shot in short episodes of non-chronological narrative. This is further framed literally by a cinematic set; a screen filling the stage, projecting live video of the action, with hatches which open to show the actors on the stage. The layers to this piece are complex to the point of incoherency; using multiple spheres which seem to grate against one another.
The short episodic scenes, shot with the brevity and pace of a film making process, are juxtaposed with the image of an endlessly long train, a metaphor with science fiction connotations. Adding to all these layers of seemingly unrelated content is the fact the actors undertake multiple roles, performing different characters. At times the actors speak in German or Russian, and sub titles are projected onto the wider cinematic screen. At other times they speak in English with those accents. To say Imitating the Dog are really making their audience work to follow any form of narrative in this piece is an understatement.
What ‘The Zero Hour’ is seemingly trying to highlight is the falsity of fictions, in especial focus to the way we consider historical events, by literally showing the audience the ease with which they can be created. Though a baffling, and barely enjoyable theatre experience, ‘The Zero Hour’ really pushes conceptual boundaries in theatre. This is commendable, though it seems the desire to be innovative has come at the expense of creating a decent story.