REVIEW: From the Mouths of the Gods

HAVE you chosen to read this of your own free will?

You could have skipped right past it, but you didn’t. Maybe you’ll read it to the end, or perhaps you’ll abandon it now and move on.

Whatever you do, it’s not really your choice at all — your brain is making the decision for you, based on its past experience.

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That’s the theory of one Tom Smith, an Australian mathematician and computer scientist.

Smith surmises that people are basically just computers, whose every output depends on the sum of the inputs made over their entire lives.

Trying to choose between tea and coffee?

It’s not up to you — it all depends on the circumstances leading to your past drinks choices and how they worked out for you.

Your brain takes that experience and flips a loaded coin — the outcome is pseudorandom and you had nothing to do with it.

Or did you?

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After all, isn’t this complex, organic, decision-making machine what you call “you”?

These are the ideas explored in a strange new play called From the Mouths of the Gods, brought to Sheffield this week by the Flanagan Collective.

Acted out by one woman and audience member, this is one of those profound experiences which pushes back theatrical boundaries.

“Hmm,” I moaned inwardly, ten minutes in. “This isn’t theatre as I understand it.”

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And: “Wow!” I proclaimed aloud, one hour later. “That wasn’t theatre as I’d understood it!”

Read from a script, with frequent tweakings for the unpredictable co-star, this show doesn’t feel well-rehearsed.

But that’s because it isn’t — Tuesday night’s actor, the fabulous Laura Lindsay, had just one hour to prepare for the performance.

I say “Tuesday’s actor” because the touring show features a different cast every single night.

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That’s right — this show has gone on tour without a cast, a set or a single rehearsal.

But, far from being reckless, these creative choices all work to the show’s advantage.

It’s a real game-changer which raises some big questions about what it is to be human.

And it works extremely well in Sheffield’s curious and intimate Theatre Delicatessen — my new favourite live venue.

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If you’re reading this on Friday, I’m afraid you’ve already missed From the Mouths of the Gods.

But the Flanagan Collective will be back in Sheffield later this month with an equally creative take on Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.

See or for more information.

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