You won’t find more careful storytelling than this curiosity shop of small tales and jumble sales than Unwanted Objects. Combining short story and song, David Head and Matt Glover’s anthology show begins in a second-hand store with a strange business model. Inside, the shopkeeper trades in the currency of emotion, the sentimental worth of an object, its past and legacy. The customer, an enthusiast of classified ads, whose own life we follow, is after his five favourite words: something 'free to a new a new home.'
The show is a beautiful, sincere exploration of the weight of the phrase and the old idea that the stuff we accumulate then eventually leave behind - ships in bottles, teddy bears, notebooks (filled and unfilled), salt shakers - offers some insight into the kinds of lives we’ve led, the ones we hope to or never got the chance to lead when all’s said and done. But what if our emotions are captured in an object, like a memory in a photograph? What if a ship moves through the ocean swifter for the temper the captain feels when treading its boards?
It’s a lovely thought, and once the first story introducing David’s anthology gets out from under its feet what exactly it’s trying to do, the hoarding of stuff, totems, from one vignette to the next, unfolds a little society of inner lives. On guitar, Matt recalls what’s gone before, his lyrics recapping sidelong details and glances at plot until the musician’s bluesy folk tunes become more than interludes and crop up as CD in the second-hand store. The duo complement each other in subtle ways that deepen as the show continues. It’s a quiet exchange from one to the other and a joy to watch.
A strategic narrative about a chess board tells the story of two lovers who meet their match then fight for divorce and over who gets what. As it unfolds, we learn that our possessions - the things that we own - often come to possess us. The show stops short of unboxing the darker implications of its premise lurking in the corners of our attic. But the boxes are there if you look for them. It's no revelation that eventually our clothes will outwear us before we outwear them.
At times, the show takes pains to explain itself and the reality behind the fiction, taking us over the hour mark, but as an audience we are already convinced by this point. Any disclaimers come across like a footnote for the performer rather than the rows of seats in front of him. If anything, it’s testament to the stories that this sort of window dressing feels superfluous.
Unwanted Objects is wonderful show with flashes of poetry. Recycling themes and images like odds and ends at a jumble sale, it sets out to tackle the big questions of love and possibility by assembling the inanimate fallout of lives like a collection in a museum. But the real magic of the show is when an unwanted object becomes furniture once more, when something finds its place in the world and we call it home.