THEATRE ROYAL PLYMOUTH – THE DRUM – 10 AUGUST 2019
2021: A CORNISH SPACE ODYSSEY
RUNNING TIME 1 HOUR – no interval
Theatre Royal Plymouth Box Office – 01752 267222
REVIEW – CORMAC RICHARDS – 8 AUGUST 2019
The audience enters the auditorium onto the stage area. A museum displays a special exhibition of artefacts; carefully presented on piled cardboard boxes you see a flipflop, a radio, a helmet…..earnest, boiler-suited, attendants guide the audience around the exhibits, explaining the significance of each.
As an introduction to a piece of theatre, this is different, smart and an instant appetite-whetter.
The Narwhal Ensemble are a group of emerging artists who create quirky theatre inspired by life in the South West of England. They have had an association with The Theatre Royal Plymouth for some years and are presenting their current show as part of the new Platform initiative started by the Theatre. The Company of eight have created 2021: A Cornish Odyssey which combines, sound, music, movement and story-telling which is not what it at first appears to be.
Using the tale of young pioneer astronaut Cleo Turner, the audience are lulled into a story of cuteness, of fun, of adventure and of comedy only to have their heads frazzled by the tragedy and aftermath which follows.
Themes of loss, grief, regret, sorrow are threaded through the story for, as Cleo will never return, she has many memories and regrets and things she wishes she had said before embarking on her quest and at the same time, those who are left behind have to deal with the aftermath. Cornwall is not the first place you think of when it comes to space exploration and it is this insignificance, the smallness of the place and the individual, which unleashes common truths about life, the universe and everything.
The props in the ‘museum’ all play a part of the story – the boxes are there to re-discover memories and to lock them away forever and as both float around in zero-gravity, the audience is given time to consider their own memories and regrets and maybe their own mortality.
The four performers; Roxane Boulbin Wallace, John Inkerman, Chelsea Vincent, and Alex Robins, are fully engaged with what they have created and their commitment to the work is plain to see; they work so closely together and perform with conviction and an excellent engagement with their audience.
The use of music and sound is extremely well done – and there is even the use of one of my favourite musical instrument; the theremin. Lighting is also excellent as the mood changes so very suddenly at times.
Movement is very important in the piece from the floating boxes and objects to the, seemingly, death throes of the astronaut; this is cleverly choreographed, though I did feel at times that some sequences lead to the pace slacking; the end result might have been just that bit tighter.
Is the audience made to think? Indeed they are – the play is not without emotion – and as the audience come to realise what is happening before them, they are nudged in the ribs in no uncertain way. I was cheered and moved in equal measure.
To create a story about serious issues we all face and dress it in something so original is a true skill and The Narwhal Ensemble have produced a thoughtful, inspiring and quietly devastating piece of theatre – a great achievement.
NB – The Photograph is a stock picture from the Company and not from this show.
CLEO – ROXANE BOULBIN WALLACE
LUKE – JOHN INKERMAN
ELLA – CHELSEA VINCENT
MIKE – ALEX ROBINS
VOICES – DAISY HIGMAN, LIAM MCDONAGH-GREAVES, SAM PARKER, FLORIAN SATURLEY, CALLUM STEWART
DIRECTED BY – NICOLE REDFERN
WRITERS – CHELSEA VINCENT & SAM PARKER
PRODUCED BY – HELEN BOVEY
SOUND – DAISY HIGMAN
MOVEMENT – LUCY BISHOP
STAGE MANAGER – TIMOTHY JAMES
SET DESIGN – CHLOE BENBOW