The Outbound Project present 12 Million Volts, the story of Serbian-American inventor and electrical engineer Nikola Tesla, known for his contributions to the modern electricity supply system. The company advise ‘there are always at least three sides to every story, one person’s side, the other person’s side… and the truth’, a convention that follows the piece through to the end. In a mist filled Space Arts Centre, four actors in suit tails mill about the space to gritty rock music – a peculiar choice for a historical performance taking place in the late 1800’s. The playful ensemble of four immediately break the fourth wall, as Jordan Turner and Gordon Miller charm particularly with cheeky asides.
The actors prompt the audience to use their imagination as they puppeteer a range of characters, from tiny clever balloon pigeons to large cigar smoking men utilising minimal props designed by Stella Backman. Crafty bubble wrap sheeting creates an opaque wall giving the actors a divine glow, although due to its size leaves transitions clunky with shuffling in the black out. Although slightly vague, the projections are a small spectacle, and the piece excels most visually. The movement sequences are short and sweet, such as the mesmerising motif in which Turner, Miller and Chime glide in a staccato rhythm amidst a warm wash of lighting.
Aside from the movement, the fact-filled piece is a slow burner. The narration in the first half feels stagnant due to confusing accents, actors being hidden in darkness and unclear diction when speaking into the microphones. Directed by Chris Yarnell, the piece is so bombarded with conventions that the story is often lost to effect, leaving a mass of ideas sellotaped together in a moderately satisfying fashion. Each actor performs with focus and vigour, and with a sharper story the piece has potential to be informative and entertaining. - Faye Butler