A peculiar experimental play about genocide and anchovies
Dr Gregory H Stanton, the founder of Genocide Watch, suggested in a 2013 paper that there are ten stages of genocide, from discrimination through to denial. ‘No Feedback’ takes that theory and turns it into an interactive performance on the theme of anchovies.
In an old office block there’s a ‘meeting’ going on about the benefits of calcium and magnesium. Three pairs of women in hot pink Crimplene lead the meeting, and only one of each pair can speak. The other is clasped by the neck in a Vulcan grip and manipulated like a puppet, a sinister comment on freedom of speech and balances of power.
We each take a sandwich bag with stuff in it: a clothes peg, tiny pencils snaffled from Ikea. We’re told to stand where we want and a voice gives instructions for using the stuff in our bags. The kit determines whether we like anchovies or not (they’re rich in calcium and magnesium apparently) and we’re divided into two groups accordingly.
Having a taste for salty fish is an arbitrary means of splitting the audience, of claiming that some are innately better than the others. It’s an oblique and bizarre metaphor for the societal divisions that lead to genocide. The anchovy-lovers have to wear a dried anchovy brooch to mark them as different, so being on the anchovy team really sucks. Half the audience is wandering around smelling of vaginosis because of a dead fish pinned to their lapels.
We’re either forced to do strange tasks, as if on some awkward office team-building day, or when we’re not doing tasks, the performers address us at length in a robotic way about anchovies. With no chairs and nothing to do but listen, the audience just mooches around on haunches or sits cross-legged. It would make for some moody album covers, but it isn’t particularly exciting.
Despite its noble aims, the show has prolonged dull moments and can’t find a balance between being either too cryptic or too heavy-handed. Its heart is admirably moral, but the quirk and the apparent levity detract from the serious message, and instead we’re left with something that’s distinctly fishy.