One man, a bare stage and 20 minutes. A challenge for any author to manage to convey a coherent story under this extremes but even more challenging when you are also the actor. So one has to admire Mark Ravenhill for attempting just this with his monologue The Experiment.
This is one of those performances that defies any easy summary and provides many challenges for the audience. Ravenhill never provides any resolution or context to the piece so it is very much down to each member of the audience to add their own interpretation.
The narrator describes the unthinkable, the use of children as guinea pigs for medical experiments. His children, a neighbours, some one else’s? The swift narration changes course throughout the 20 minutes so we are never sure what is real and what is some form of defence. There is a sense of the Nazi’s Angel of Death Josef Mengele pervading the air and its uncomfortable viewing.
There is an attempt to justify the horror for the greater medical good but again its left to the audience to decide if any of the multiple angles presented justifies the horror.
In true Ravenhill style this is a script peppered with strong imagery and equally strong language and on many levels is not comfortable viewing. Nor should it be.
Does it work as a monologue? Perhaps- as a piece to make you think for several hours beyond the brief 20 min running time it certainly hits the mark. As a stand alone piece without a background context is somehow fails. A thought provoking but somehow unfulfilled experience.