FEDERICA DE CARIA

If you find yourself sitting down on a white cube in an ex-dairy in Battersea and all around is a dark space where crows caw, with figures in boiler suits zipping through, then yes, you are in a theatre.

This is because the play written by Elchin and directed by Matthew Gould is an immersive one. As the audience you have the preferential perspective of the public, who sees everything and hears everything. But at the same time, you’re part of the play. You magically become one of the light purgatory souls, who from up above can metaphorically see the humans down below through the telescope. You can observe from the other dimension the small creatures, who have talking behind someone’s back as a favourite hobby. Who am I talking about? Humans. But let’s start from the beginning.

The second edition of the Buta Festival brings the English-Language world premiere of ‘Telescope’ to London, from February 25th to March 7th. The immersive play was written by the Azerbaijani deputy Prime Minister Elchin. It’s almost like if Cameron was able to write a masterpiece. Elchin’s favourite topics are human dilemmas, which is why his stories are universal. ‘Stories’ is perfectly correct, because Elchin didn’t wake up one morning thinking of writing up a couple of lines and magically found ‘Telescope’ on paper; he is the author of over 100 books translated into more than 20 languages.

‘Telescope’ is the story of a man who suddenly dies and finds himself in a sort of gigantic waiting room, which has been hosting since trillions of souls queuing since Creation, waiting for the judge that will send them up to heaven or down to hell. Basically he finds himself in Purgatory. From there, the souls can kill their time in restaurants that serve the famous ‘food for the soul’ and have crows cawing as soundtrack. Doesn’t it sound appealing? Well, apparently there is a third option to kill your time up there, which is watching the earth through a telescope. But no one is doing it. Why? Our main man is going to discover that at his own expense.

Now let’s go back inside. Everything starts with an opening scene worthy of Grey’s Anatomy or ER, with a group of screaming and running human beings pushing a gurney. On the gurney, our main man in a coma. The noisy group is composed by the doctor, the nurse and the family. I guarantee that the sound of the family in despair could potentially be classified as sincere as saying that crows cawing make a symphony.

A few seconds after, our man find himself walking on clouds with figures scootering around in white boiler suits. Here he meets his ex-wife, who apparently is charming enough to make him think about cheating on his reprehensible wife-on-earth after few light and creamy words. We could give him that, after all what he sees through the telescope is probably what no one would like to be aware of. But that’s Earth, populated by silly men and women. We, as humans, have a lot of quite bad behaviour from Elchin’s point of view. I’m not implying he is wrong though.

There are long, but witty metaphysical dialogues in the play, mainly between our main character and his ex wife. They discuss the work of the angels up there, the creatures in boiler suits and about what an inconsistent soul can or cannot do. But our man progressing with the story exchanges the curiosity of being in there with the anger for what he sees through the telescope, so he does something he shouldn’t do. He turns the lenses upside down, so no one can suffer watching down anymore.

The angels do not appreciate his rebellion and they make a decision. Oh no, wait, there is a little surprise. They don’t make a decision. You human, yes, you, sitting down on your white cube. You have in your hand two pieces of paper with the numbers 1 and 2 written down. What is going to be of our protagonist is in your hands. Back to earth among the falsities with time to do better during what can be left of his life, or queuing eternally as a soul for the final judge? Ok, it’s time. Raise your hands.