Unshut Festival -
South West England

I was physically pinned to my seat by two eyes.

I have just sat through You’ve Got Five More Minutes by Andrew Neil Hayes as part of the Unshut festival.  This was billed as a five minute performance – one person at a time.  It is a reperformance of an earlier piece – You’ve Got Five Minutes, which I did not see, adapted for lockdown circumstances.

I signed up for my 5 minute slot was sent my Eventbright confirmation and 30 minutes before my allotted time was sent zoom link and password we are so used to receiving in lockdown.  I duly logged in and was a couple of minutes early and was just settling myself, getting my tea mug in order, unsure of what was about to happen. Adjusting myself as I thought I had a couple of minutes to ready my thoughts, then DING…I look up and I am pinned – stuck and stranded.  I feel like a beetle skewered like a specimen on display in a museum.

Coming into this I had wondered what this would be and assumed some kind of odd silent treatment, I thought I might play around talk, walk away, call their bluff, but my bluff has been called.

The 5 minutes starts and I want to ask the question – ‘can we talk?’ but my heart beats faster – I dare myself to talk but cant do it can’t open my mouth all I can do is shuffle a little, the wryest come back I can manage is lifting one eyebrow which I promptly lower again, and the minutes move on.

I don’t want to describe what happens because of spoilers – this is a performance for me alone and you don’t get into it, but the eyes aren’t the only thing on the call and the five minutes fly by.

I have come out of it deeply affected – I immediately started writing this account, my heartbeat still enhanced.  There is an existential reflection in the performance – no where to hide from yourself, nothing to consider but the microscopic constituent parts of the self, the body, the cosmic dust that makes us up. God is staring into my me even though I don’t believe. I can’t do anything but be shown me, squirming in a chair trying my hardest to be clever but unable to lift a finger.

Having not seen the original I cannot compare, but this is a piece given poignance by the lockdown situation and the necessity of a zoom call presentation.  Part of the impact of this performance is that it is beamed into your own home, I just ate lunch and was sat in MY chair and then all of a sudden a portal to a scouring gaze is opened up exposing all of my insecurities.

The pandemic and the lockdown has made us all reassess who we are, what we value, why we value them and how we interact as humans.  The performance can only be read in this context given the delivery method, and it is all of these questions that work focuses back on ourselves – what it is to be humans and am I up to the job?