Sunday, 11 November 2007

Floating - WYP

Floating by Hugh Hughes and Sioned Rowlands
West Yorkshire Playhouse 31t October – 3rd November.
Reviewed by Gregory Hale and Lucy Cosens.

Floating is the fruit born out of the collaboration of Hugh Hughes and HoiPolloi, it was an Edinburgh Fringe smash hit and award winner (2006). The story follows the epic journey of the Isle of Anglesey when is breaks away from Wales and floats around the Atlantic, Arctic and back home again, encountering storms, whales, Icebergs, the stubborn Isle of Man and Wales. The story is concerned with, and told through, the memories of Hugh Hughes and his attempts to leave his homeland, to make that first step into the unknown.

Because Floating was conceived from the Fringe it brings with it a refreshing, unconventional style and charm, allowing the actors to make a connection with their audience. This also meant it lacked the rigid (thus limiting) conservative theatre structure; it was a very fluid performance that could adapt to its environment. An example of this is when an audience member came in late, Hugh jumped on this opportunity to make a connection, he stopped the show and persisted in a very polite manner (and for 10 minuets) to question, embarrass, harass and humiliate the audience member with a glitter in his eye, all adding to his humble persona. After clearly removing and defying conventional theatrical rules the audience felt comfortable enough to participate in the performance, consequently the show didn’t get started until we were 25 minutes in. Removing such barriers left Hugh vulnerable and tested his ability to keep control, at points he almost allowed this to go too far, some audience members started to get agitated, he was on thin ice though he never actually lost his grip. Ultimately this gave the performance a refreshing and unpredictable edge.

The set itself was a jumble, filled with panoply of costumes, props, screens and projectors. The space was utilised in a very effective manner, having the ability to reflect the intimate moments of isolation and lonesome angst, and then next showing the bridge collapse and the island floating off on its epic journey. The set as a whole is also reminiscent, playing to this idea that this is the jumbled up mind and (most importantly) imagination of Hugh. The several projection screens also helped create the conflated, distorted and intimate view of the memory and the lies the imagination makes the memory believe.

The writing, like the set, is very intimate and reveals the indecisive hardship that lies in us all, the struggle to make that first step into the unknown and the pressure and struggle to leave behind all that you know and leave behind the place that made you yourself. At times the writing wasn’t as dramatically tight as it could have been, nor was it really thrilling or intriguing, yet somehow that just did not matter. The ambience permeated the entire space, one could not help but feel elated about the piece as a whole, and the reason for this lies with the connection Hugh and Sioned made to their audience, without their enlightening skills and charms this piece would have been mediocre at best. The energy and charisma of these actors is easily reason enough to see this honest piece of theatre, come with an open heart and mind and you won’t leave disappointed.

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