Her name is Ellen, she is lost. Where? Somewhere inside herself, in the confusing hinterland between reality, the waking world and the great barrier between life and death. She is not alone. This is the premise of V-TOL’s current theatre work touring the country, Out Of This World.
Out Of This World was at Blackpool’s Grand Theatre for a one off performance last week. It’s a real pity it only had the one performance, I would have booked tickets for another showing and dragged people off the streets to see it such was the power and grace of the work.
The story, if that is the term to use, perhaps situation would be better, is of Ellen, involved in some kind of accident and deposited into a cold medical space.
She becomes aware she is in some kind of dreamworld, a stream of disjointed, fractured memories and half perceived realities, thrown from one nightmarish scene to the next she struggles to assemble something of a mental footing, to define who she is, where she is and how to return to herself. We as an audience journey with her as she pieces the mystery together and constructs a path back home but (without revealing any spoilers) is reality and the heartbreaking truth she must face to return worth the cost of what she will lose?
It is a small ensemble cast of six and they all are excellent, a measured performance is given from each which must have been a difficult task when working within such a technology heavy show. Flying lines spin actors in the air, projected images and environments augment their performances. To hit such technical precision and within that, still touch the audience with the inherently small moments of humanity, a hand on a shoulder, a kind word to a comatose woman, must have been a daunting challenge for them. A challenge which they all rose to with consummate ease.
Ensemble the cast may have been, but Sarah Swire as Ellen was astounding, by turns confused, strong, broken, battered both physically and mentally she drives the work through its eighty minutes with an energy and charm I’ve rarely seen matched in thirty years of involvement in theatre. A truly outstanding performance which reaches to each member of the audience with her nuanced exploration of the nature of self and identity.
The setting on stage was stark and clinical, more of a performance space than your traditional set, three white walls created a ‘blank canvas’ for an eye bashing constant stream of film and graphics projected on them creating a 3D environment for the performers to interact with. It’s an assured staging, confidence that you only get with a first rate technical crew working together as one, who should be counted as an extra unseen member of the cast.
The Grand Theatre should once again be congratulated for having the chutzpah to programme such a challenging work, never one to shy from the more comfortable traditional theatre pieces, one hopes the disappointingly small (but far from disappointed) audience doesn’t give them pause when planning their always eclectic theatre seasons.
Mark Murphy’s V-TOL Out Of This World is touring the country until early June and I urge you to seek it out if possible, it’s a truly amazing work and deserves to seem by a far larger audience.
For more information and upcoming performances of Out Of This World visit outofthisworldtour.co.uk
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