Tuesday 23 June 2015

Theatre Review: Current Location at The Trinity Centre, Bristol

This review was first written for The Public Reviews

You might be offered orange juice and cake on entering the light, bright space of the Trinity Centre, but there's little of the welcoming church hall feel to FellSwoop Theatre's adaptation of Japanese playwright Toshiki Okada’s Current Location. Written in the aftermath of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, the tone is apocalyptic from the start, as choir members gathering for rehearsal discuss the rumours of their village’s destruction; that the blue cloud seen in the distance could be fulfilling an ancient prophecy of disaster, as the rainfall and drinking water from the local lake begin to turn toxic.
There may be a storm gathering around them, but day-to-day life in the village still carries on. Using a naturalistic style and minimal props of a few folding chairs and a functional table, the all-female cast displays a range of reactions to the impending doom; from a compulsive need for discussion to out-and-out denial. On the brink of disaster, each one finds their own precarious way of coping, until their familiar foursome is disrupted by the arrival of a newcomer – albeit one who has lived in the village all her life. Hannah unsettles existing relationships and increases anxiety with the questions she raises and each member of the group must find a solution to her intrusion and a means of suppressing the fear she creates.
Ranged along both sides of the long, tall room the audience follows the dialogue that pings back and forth like spectators in a catastrophic tennis match. It’s an immersive experience, enhanced by Ben Osborn’s evocative, original soundscape, but one which seems closer to science fiction than reality for us, despite extensive rewriting. For Okada’s Japanese audience though, after the events of Fukushima, it would have been anything but.
The performances by the five actors (Charlotte Allan, Caitlin Ince, Emma Keaveney Roys, Roisin Kelly and Pia Laborde Noguez) are excellent. Dressed in dull, muted colours, relieved by only the occasional flash of red, they already have the frightened-rabbit look of those glancing over the edge of the precipice. Their reactions to the rumours swirling around them may vary but they are all urgent, convincing and chilling in equal measure. And when the time comes for action of the most shocking kind, the original group proves they can still close ranks and act as one.
There are flaws in this present interpretation of Okada’s work, however. The script is quite fragmented, which makes it difficult in places to follow. That the choir is also writing a play is introduced in a confusing manner and then forgotten again, making it seem more like a convenient plot device than something woven into the story. Some scenes, such as the debate over a costume for this play, seem to take too long but others, like the denial of their own actions, are rushed through and unclear. Some seemingly allegorical references to ways out of the crisis are too much of a puzzle and the time frame being covered is never really certain.
This all leaves an impression of an original, thought-provoking work which at times lacks the necessary cohesion to live up to its promise. No doubt FellSwoop Theatre will continue to develop this adaptation as the show is prepared for Edinburgh and unquestionably it has the potential to create a truly haunting and unforgettable production.
Reviewed on Saturday 6th June 2015.

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