Thursday 1st September, 2022 at Camden People’s Theatre, London.
Reviewer: Emma Dorfman
POP POP POP: TILL YOU STOP is an performance art piece that is more akin to something you might see at Tate Modern or the MoMa in New York. Performed by Mimmi Bauer, it is a true test of the opportunities and limitations of repetitive acts—how these might both incite and ease our anxieties whilst tackling day-to-day repetitive tasks. And The Good Crunch, the company run by both Bauer and Hillah Tomer, uses popcorn to bring this intangible psychological phenomenon to life.
Right from the start of POP POP POP, the audience is given a free-flowing contract of participation. We’re given small boxes of popcorn. Whether or not we consume them during the performance is entirely up to us. Bauer, atop a beautiful mound of yellow popcorn, clad in a unicorn onesie, asks us questions. It’s up to us as to whether we provide the answers. Then the “performance” abruptly begins. Our patience is tested through a seemingly neverending cycle of repetitive actions: the grabbing of a toe, the popping of popcorn, a mic check. As audience members, we have no choice but to pay closer and closer attention to precisely what is repeated and what is modified. In due time, I found myself in a meditative state. My attention was no longer on my busy work week, what I might have for dinner, what my weekend plans were, but rather, I found myself wholly present.
While this was certainly not an unwelcome feeling on a Thursday evening, I kept on asking myself, but what is the point of it all? POP POP POP, in its present state, feels like an ongoing lab experiment that is still in the petri dish. At moments, it was difficult to tell if I was attaching meaning onto something that wasn’t at all there. It was difficult, as well, to tell if The Good Crunch had any clear intentions with this piece. What, precisely, did they want their audience members to feel throughout this experiment?
Towards the end of POP POP POP, Bauer’s repetitive routine is modified. It reminded me very much of my days in acting school, studying Mary Oliver’s Viewpoints technique. Slight adaptations and changes are made on previously repeated gestures: the duration of that moment was slightly longer this time, the tempo on that move was much quicker this time, and so on and so on. I was also reminded of music, and how the simple, constant repetition of a musical phrase can cleanse the mind entirely. For these reasons, POP POP POP certainly has artistic merit. The lack of a specific journey, of a clear message to the audience, however, may give over confusion to its viewers.
POP POP POP: TILL YOU STOP! plays the Camden People’s Theatre until September 2nd 2022 – you can find more information and tickets here.