Standing in front of a blank slate of white walls, three shivering swimmers, red-faced and half-smiling in tight suits, await their orders from a series of chillingly calm disembodied voices... Welcome to Aquaworld, a theme park where the temperature is always perfect and the beaches have no sand... All is not what it seems in “Five in the Morning,” a cerebral new brainteaser by the innovative London theater company Rotozaza that keeps you guessing throughout its taut, suspenseful 70 minutes. Are those scripted actors, or unrehearsed guests? Is Aquaworld a dream, or a voyage through a cracked subconscious?

Staged by Ant Hampton with the subtlety and sure-handedness of a seasoned magician, the play begins like a simple game of Simon Says (“Open your eyes,” “Touch her”) ... While everything seems rigidly controlled, moments of spontaneity — a smile, a roll of the eyes — occasionally break through, creating an almost transgressive tension that is oddly exciting.

What saves “Five in the Morning” from being an abstract exercise is that it’s rooted in these characters — trapped, struggling neurotics brought to life with tenderness. The face of the pixieish [...] smaller woman, is a mask of anxiety. She stares into the audience yearningly, but it’s unclear if she can really see us. As the play progresses, the artifice of the theater becomes increasingly clear. Even the audience is occasionally drowned out by a laugh track.

At its core, the play is about how we construct our own personas, piecing together a narrative that we play in our own minds. Explaining more would give away some of the surprises, which are essential to the delight of the show. As with a great suspense film, watching this unusually daring show provides the gradual recognition of being manipulated — and enjoying every second of it.

“Five in the Morning” by Rotozaza, at P.S. 122.

By JASON ZINOMAN -New York Times, April 7, 2007

full review text available online HERE or, failing that, HERE


This is Aquaworld, an enormous indoor leisure-pool complex. No, this is the theatre, the same one you paid to enter. We have learnt to be selective with the truth. Lying is a strong word. Most people - either in the theatre or in themselves - prefer to talk about illusion.

For the last few years our work has centered around a unique strategy of giving instructions to unrehearsed guest performers, different every night. We found that any audience could understand the basic truth behind the event before them: that the performer is on the same level as they are, discovering everything at the same time. We saw how this transformed an audience from traditional 'spectator' mode to something more present, more bound up with the moment; and we often played with that divide, alternately charming and jarring the audience into seeing things from different perspectives. With Five in the Morning, we focus on the awareness of shifting between seeing things as they are, and what they stand for.

(We're interested in the idea of a constructed persona - a version of ourselves made to present to others. It figures that to construct anything, you need a place: Aquaworld is maintained at body temperature; it's safe and proposes fun-for-all, bright lights, benign / fake nature and clear rules. Despite being a total rip-off from the world we know, rather than the expression of individuality we probably aspire to, the security of this 'place-persona' is just what the contemporary urban mind needs in order to cradle an awkward and inefficient relationship with itself and others; a clumsiness expressed here through the guests' efforts to do what they’re told...)

Five in the Morning was awarded BEST TOURING SHOW by the Austin Critics Table, as part of Fusebox 2008 (Austin, Texas, USA)

"IT'S very difficult to talk about Rotozaza's new show, Five in the Morning. Almost impossible in fact. As usual, Silvia Mercuriali and Ant Hampton - the company's mischievous founders - are intent on playing games with their audience..." - The Scotsman

"Vulnerable and emotionally naked in their swimsuits ... Rotozaza capture all the weirdness of the unconscious world - there is no doubting the talent or ambition of a company who can so intriguingly prod at our unconscious." - The Guardian

TOURING INFO PACK > (5mb, pdf)

Created by Ant Hampton, Silvia Mercuriali, Greg McLaren and Melanie Wilson

with the participation of Catherine Dyson

Sound software by Ollie Bown

Rotozaza acknowledge the kind support of FESTIVAL X, Lisbon

Thanks also to the Hackney Empire and the BAC

The development of FIVE IN THE MORNING was funded by the Arts Council of England


photos by Karl Allen