They Built It. No One Came is a new play from Fledgling Theatre Company, written by Callum Cameron. It’s inspired by the true story of two men, Christian and Johannes, who felt disillusioned with their lives in Salt Lake City and founded a brand new commune out in the wilderness. They waited patiently for their fellow brothers to arrive, but after many years they were still the only two members.
On a charmingly scruffy stage made from what looks like the stuff they had lying around in the back of the garage, Fledgling create a little world. It’s silly and surreal; a joyful send up of two misfits who opt out of modern society and attempt to write their own rules. Hilarious in its exaggerated absurdity, They Built It. No One Came deftly skirts around self-pity and lifts the story of Tobias (Christopher Neels) and Alexander (Patrick Holt) up from the depths of despair and out into the light.
We’re invited in, to share their simple tranquility. And all is well, for a time. Until, one day, Brother Pablo (Callum Cameron) arrives and all kinds of heaven breaks loose. It’s what they’ve been dreaming of since they arrived, but it’s also an intrusion, which forces them to give a small part of their kingdom away. Brother Pablo’s questions lead them to confront the reality that the outside world could not care less about their lifelong passion project. And they must begin to ask difficult questions of themselves and each other. They also, eventually, end up with electricity and the internet.
Cameron’s smart writing gives Neels and Holt plenty of witty wordplay to mess around with, and their effortless chemistry shines brightly. Ben Maier’s jocular music is performed live by Edoardo Elia, who shares their gift for comedic timing and wry delivery. Combined with some fairly flamboyant choreography, the music injects the show with an infectious energy and lends it a unique and self-deprecating sense of humour.
A misfit of modern society looks to the internet to search for their niche and seek a sense of community. Today’s misfit finds their corner of Twitter or Tumblr, marks out some safe space and proceeds to yell gleefully into the echo chamber. But for Tobias and Alexander, community and spirituality are ideas which have their roots in nature; in the soil. Self-sufficient and nurturing, they find refuge in turtledoves, not trigger warnings. And it’s actually a really refreshing to watch a play about flax seeds, starring humble humans with earthly ambitions.
Reviewed by Annabel Mellor
THEY BUILT IT. NO ONE CAME plays at Greenwich Theatre until 4 February 2017