No Idea is a show about making a show. It is about the two performers, Lisa and Rachel, and their relationship with each other and the world, as revealed through their experience of devising a play. It is very funny, the performance delivers and the concept is clever.
Lisa and Rachel made the piece by taking to the streets ‘armed with a tape recorder’ and asked the ‘great British public’ what they thought they could make a show about. What sprung to mind when faced with these two women? What could they possibly represent or do on stage? The material they collected became material for the show. Some of the suggestions are reproduced as they had been given (the two actors listening to the recordings of the public on iPods and imitating the voices) and some suggestions are given an attempted dramatic or musical staging. The results are fascinating. What people said was ridiculous, complex and awkward but completely heartfelt. And because we know we are not watching stand up or scripted comedy, we know that we are just listening to people on the street, it gives us even more reason to laugh. Laugh at the people, laugh at ourselves, laugh at Lisa and Rachel and watch them laugh at themselves.
The women speak of pacts they made to create the piece – to stick to the task of asking strangers for a story and not to edit what is given. This commitment is what makes the piece work. The delight of the audience does not rely on the wit of the performers but on the execution of a good idea. It is not a collection of scenes which make people laugh but rather many different observations of one extended social experiment. An experiment in which Lisa and Rachel are as much the subject as the public.
Maybe the strength of one idea makes it hard for the rest of the piece to keep up. The ending falls short of the charm and obscenity of the text and song which appear in the first half of the piece. It seems a bit too formulaic. The layers of observations and piss-takes and stranger-than-fiction mumblings could get even thicker before the offer of a conclusion is needed. Maybe they should have asked the public to tell them how to end. Or maybe I just didn’t want it to.
‘No Idea’ By Lisa Hammond and Rachel Spence with Improbable, directed by Lee Simpson, 21-31 July 2010 Young Vic