O NO! is a generous, warm, heartfelt celebration of love, trust and Yoko Ono. Written and performed by Jamie Wood, and playing at the Soho Theatre this week, this joyous work questions why we often regard falling in love as something tragic or catastrophic. Wood uses his own experience of love, and descriptions of that of his parents and John and Yoko to create a spirit of positivity that buzzes in the space.
Framed through reference to Ono’s Grapefruit, an artistic manifesto and textbook for both Ono and other artists, Wood performs various works – like Cut Piece, Touch Piece and Bag Piece – in order to bridge the uncomfortable intimacy that often exists in the theatre between performer and audience, and audiences themselves. By the end of the show, I’d sat inside a bag with Wood and discussed my own experiences of love, I’d cut scraps from his outfit and I held hands with all the strangers sat around me. If this kind of audience participation sounds like your nightmare – don’t be worried: it’s testament to Wood’s charm, and endearing nature that even the shyest of audience members are gently coaxed into taking part.
O NO! is both wonderfully tongue-in-cheek and totally genuine. A total hippie, Wood initially seems to encourage us to laugh at him, the nervous energy of an audience not entirely sure what to expect channelled at the solo performer. It doesn’t take long to be seduced by the wit of the piece and Wood’s investment in the material. This is a very very funny show, in a warm and welcoming way. What we are asked to engage in is kind of ridiculous, but also seems totally necessary. A fitting homage to Yoko and John, O NO! creates community within the theatre, offering a glimpse of what a less cynical, more generous, loving world might feel like. At its best, theatre offers a glimpse of this kind of utopia that stays with you for a long time. I think that Jamie Wood’s O NO! is this kind of show. The beauty of the work is in its affirming, uplifting optimism. It’s refreshing to see this kind of work. If you’re into loving homages to minimalist experimental performance art, if you’re a hippie at heart (or think you might be), if you just want a laugh, or want to be reminded that love can be great and is important then see this show. And if you don’t think you want any of that, then go and join the Avant Garde Orchestra and see it anyway, because you probably need it!
O NO! plays at the Soho Theatre until Saturday 2nd April. Tickets are £10-£12.50.