“Façade,” which is still showing at the Spaces on the Mile, is a new thriller from the University of Manchester Drama Society. At the beginning of the play, the young philosophy student Alec has gone missing and he might be in danger. His girlfriend and his, er, Professor pour through all of his diaries in search of clues. His friend Murray, his classmates and his, er, psychiatrist film little videos for a YouTube channel which recounts Alec’s ostensibly final movements. The search, however, doesn’t really lead anywhere. Alec seems to have wasted most of his life brooding over the mysteries of philosophy rather than getting wrapped up in drug cartels.
The play consequently deploys some very innovative interactive puppetry and immersive theatre. Two vast pink cheeks descend from the ceiling and, in order to investigate, the Professor reaches up and pulls himself aloft. Next, he calls down to the girlfriend, Murray, and the psychiatrist to follow. They might have found Alec! Soon the audience are also in pursuit, rising up out of their seats and climbing a little rung ladder into the darkness overhead.
Yes, the entire play has disappeared up its own arse.
Inside, we get as comfortable as is possible within an interior which is waist deep in shite. Alec is here and he greets all of his old friends. He is drinking cocktails with Plato and Descartes and Nietzsche and Russell Brand. None of them look very happy – even Russell can be heard complaining about the “rather dumb” conversation he is having. Alec makes a remark that “we are all hedonic calculi” and Plato looks particularly grumpy.
The audience mingles.
I later bump into Alec when we are both smoking outside the sphincter. I tell him that it is strange how there is so much philosophy in this play and that yet still nothing makes sense. Alec agrees. He has just failed his course module on Free Will. He had murdered his girlfriend because he had been senselessly programmed to do so by a childhood trauma and the Professor had given him a D.