As I bobbed across the IJ, en route to the Fringe’s satellite Hub Noord, I had almost no idea what to expect from Pand7090. The programme entry’s inscrutable at best, and the faintly professorial gentleman who greets you at the door claims the title is too hard to translate into English. But actually, I think bemused ignorance is the best way to approach this joyfully barmy show – so if you’ll forgive me, I’ll skimp on the detail here, the better to save the surprise.
In any case, if you imagine that “Pand” is short for “Pandemonium” you’ll have roughly the right idea. Squeezed into a ten-foot-square glass-walled crate, the audience shares its personal space with three mop-haired musicians, playing a keyboard, a guitar and – wait for it – a trombone. Mercifully, the mute stays firmly in the trombone’s end, but you still might want to accept the proffered earplugs.
The guitar, meanwhile, spends most of its time being twanged with unusual objects – among them an electric toothbrush, which inexplicably plays one of Queen’s greatest hits. An egg-whisk, a gramophone and a tiny model of a rhinoceros are among the many other random items that come out to play. And the walls and ceiling are covered with an even more eclectic collection of detritus, which thoroughly rewards study in the few quiet moments the musical trio permit.
The size of the audience is well-judged – large enough that things feel cramped, but not to the extent that it’s uncomfortable – and the crowded conditions inspire a friendly conspiracy of humour, with complete strangers happy to share this bizarre but seductive musical joke. But we’re not passive bystanders: when we’re called on to hold this or that, or to pass notes across the room, it feels like we’ve contributed to the jam session without actually needing any skill.
The real performers’ skill, however, is in absolutely no doubt, both as physical comedians and off-the-wall musicians. It’s a brief, but intense and loveable performance – and it was with considerable sadness that I realised the half-hour was up, leaving me to ride the ferry from this cocoon of craziness back to the relative sanity of Central Station.
Nine times out of ten, I’d end a review like this one by asking the biting question: why? But confronted with such joyful and creative chaos, I find I just haven’t the heart to. It’s funny, bizarre and strangely life-affirming. Why not?