Posts Tagged ‘Fuel’

I clearly remember the moment twelve years ago when I gasped as an army officer raised his gun to shoot a horse. A puppet horse. In the Olivier Theatre. Almost the entire audience gasped with me. In the second half of this play I winced as a man with a broken leg in a makeshift splint crawled across moraine high in the Peruvian Andes, all imaginary. Thats the magic of theatre.

This must be one of the most unlikely stories to make it onto a West End stage, but then again it’s put there by Tom Morris, one of the creators of War Horse, and adapted by one of our finest playwrights, David Greig. You can write about your survival after a near fatal climbing accident, and you can film where it happened and take testimony from those involved in a documentary, but how on earth do you stage it? The answer is imagination, of the survivor as we hear what’s in his head and his dreams, and in the staging where you take the audience on a journey where they suspend disbelief.

Designer Ti Green uses just tables, chairs, pub features and a hanging frame to create both worlds. Movement with lighting, music, and a soundscape add tension and atmosphere. Four hugely talented young actors – Josh Williams as survivor Joe Simpson, Angus Yellowlees as his fellow climber Simon & Fiona Hampton as Joe’s feisty sister Sarah who he talks to in his head, all three in very athletic performances, and Patrick McNamee lightening the tone as backpacker Richard looking after basecamp. Greig’s structure and Tom Morris’ creative staging enables the story to be told like a thriller, even though you know the outcome.

I wasn’t convinced I wanted to see this, it’s not really my genre, but the buzz changed my mind and proved to be true. Great to see the work of three regional theatres working together to create something so good and being rewarded with a West End transfer that broadens the options for theatre-goers. Definitely one to recommend.

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The Roof

Another day, another headphone show. The second of my LIFT 2014 trio. Innovative company Fuel, the man behind Shunt and designer Jon Bausor. Very excited.

Doon Street Car Park, behind the NT, has acquired a compound in which you stand on gravel wearing your headphones. Elevated all around you are rooftops and two ‘rooms’. It’s a live video game. It starts slowly, but speeds up a bit – but only a bit, and its the slowness that’s the heart of the problem.

Player 611 runs around avoiding or shooting monsters, getting ‘prizes’ & popping into the smaller room which is, in turn, a radio staton, pharmacy, infirmary etc. When he completes a level, there’s some sort of ‘show’ in the larger room.

There’s music playing in your headphones and occasionally disorientating sounds that make you look over your shoulder . You’re forever turning around to follow the action. I became uncomfortable, then I got irritated, then I got bored. It’s only an hour but it doesn’t sustain its length. It was original, clever, technically accomplished and the performances were good – but it was slow and dull too, I’m afraid.

Maybe it means more if you are a video gamester?

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This isn’t a play as such; it’s an installation with a 45 minute performance at its heart. It’s theme is nature and our connection to it.

You can enter up to an hour before the performance and stay for up to an hour after it ends. There are screens on all four sides of the square space showing an ever-changing skyscape. In the centre there are c. 400 rough white bricks, on which there are c. 30 lamps of various heights. Three projectors intermittently show footage of sea on three up-turned bricks. It’s all rather relaxing, calm and gentle as people quietly take their seats.

A lady and a dog arrive. She turns off the projectors and returns the three bricks to their proper place. Once she’s settled the dog in its place, she sits on a revolving stool and begins to speak. The words are seemingly unconnected thoughts about what we like about nature. There’s a soundscape, the lights come on and off somewhat randomly and the skyscape changes continually. It remains gentle and restful and calming, even trance-like, hypnotic & soporific.

That’s about it really. I can’t say I didn’t enjoy my 80 minutes of calm at the end of the working week, but I can’t say it was more than that really. Oh, and there’s a lovely free programme with quotes from people. Mmmmm…..

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