Jason Lindner’s The Gog/Magog Project, Exeter phoenix, Monday 16th May to Saturday 21st May, 8pm
By Jenna Richards
The haunting spell of this production stayed with me long after I left the theatre.
The final image replaying in my mind as I tried to make sense of the somewhat mysterious production I’d just witnessed.
The blurb for Jason Linder’s Gog/Magog Project told me that performance artist Alexander Gog has been caged for eight years after contractually agreeing to be imprisoned inside his performance space as a form of social protest.
It told me he should have been released after a year but the death of those with whom the project began lead to his extended detention and his survival exclusively on banana flavoured ‘moon pies’.
Performed in the round chairs lined each wall of Exeter Phoenix’s black box. Dominating the room was the ‘performance’ cage of Alexander Gog. Seven foot fences kept him imprisoned. There was a desk in one corner, a bed in another, a toilet with shower curtain affording him a limited degree of privacy and the floor was littered with old newspapers, pages from the Beano and pills scattered from their bottles. In the centre of the space hung a tyre swing – an element that would have been entirely at home in a monkey enclosure.
The performance took us through numerous days of his captivity, from day one introducing the project to a time when he realises the year of his contract is up and he has not been released, to the resulting despair and desperation as he tries every means possible to stave off the insanity caused by his prolonged captivity.
Watchers are enthralled as we see Alexander Gog pass through a myriad of emotions from melancholy to elation, sexual longing to apathy. He plays games, finds a friend made of anti-matter and sings songs.
As the buzzer sounds on another day it is as though Alexander Gog morphs into another variation of his own character his actions and monologue dependent on the emotions he feels that day.
It was a hilarious and bitter attack on almost every conceivable kind of commercial theatre and a thoughtful comment on the value of the artistic experience.
The play was humorous and horrific in equal measure. The actor’s performance was faultless; he spoke directly to and engaged with the audience. The stage management was equally seamless.
But for me it was the mysteriousness of this production that has stayed with me. Even after seeing the play my companion asked me as we were leaving if it ever had happened?
It has been more than 10 years since the first Big Brother contestants agreed to be locked inside a house for weeks on end being filmed by television cameras. Which begs the question are we so far from Alexander Gog’s unique brand of performance art becoming the norm?