EFR - Reviews of Figments and Dust

Figments and Dust

Sat 8th – Sat 15th August 2015

reviews

Benjie Beer

at 01:15 on 14th Aug 2015

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What is the point of telling stories? Stories, as Sheep Theatre tell us, are inescapable, and they shape people. In Figments and Dust, this bohemian theatre company demonstrate to their audience why we tell stories, as the audience is told the story of two lovers travelling out of the city and into the forest to immerse themselves in a new environment.

In the basement of a noisy Clerk’s Bar, four storytellers relate how these lovers are introduced to three mysterious women in the dead of night, and become enriched by their tales of dragons, myths and legends.

The four storytellers did very well to wrestle with an unaccommodating venue. Not only did they have very little space to create their atmosphere, but they had to compete with the cacophony of the bar upstairs, and it is entirely to their credit that they managed to create some real charm in their performance.

We are firstly introduced to the concept and the outer layer of the story by narrator Alex Marsh, who is also responsible for writing the entire piece. From there, the three women, played by Katherine Morris, Suchitra Sebastian and Cara-Jane Colgan, take it in turns to tell their individual tales: first of the first man and woman created by God; then of Tiamat, who created the world; then of the two children who escaped from the witch Baba Yaga.

The atmosphere is decidedly rustic and pagan, with the three women in bucolic outfits and glowing lamps and leaves in hand. It must be said that the writing, although too often searching for the profound, is made of impressive poetry, with some really gorgeous passages glowing: “the slow surrender of autumn”, “sift syllables, sing syntax on the sea.” There are the descriptions of Tiamat stretching his skin across the universe to create the sky, and of Baba Yaga’s crow’s teeth of iron and nose of rushing blood. The delivery of the tales is mostly tight and fluid, though the storytellers occasionally tripped over each other.

For a Free Fringe event in a difficult venue, Sheep Theatre do very well. Unfortunately it was difficult to keep a track of exactly all the ins and outs of the stories, due in part to the clattering from upstairs, and the static nature of the performance made it easy for the mind to wander. These are hindrances that they rose to overcome with great poetry and sound delivery, as much as it could seem as if they were struggling at points to hold the audience’s attention and maintain their own charisma. For all its faults, this is a rustic evening with charm and an interesting message about the nature of storytelling.

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Freya Routledge

at 09:54 on 14th Aug 2015

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In the basement of a busy Clerk’s Bar, PBH’s Free Fringe presented Figments and Dust, a session of storytelling from Sheffield-based Sheep Theatre. The space lent itself to the production’s concern with oral folklore traditions, emanating the romantic, mysterious darkness of the ‘witching hour’ during which stories can come alive. Indeed, despite the audible overspill from the bar above, the cast achieved the mystery and magic that defines an effective storytelling atmosphere.

Much of the costume evoked the folk roots of traditional storytelling as three women (Suchitra Sebastian, Cara-Jane Colgan, and Katharine Morris) entered the stage in simple bucolic dress, wearing phantom masks and carrying lanterns. This rustic aesthetic combined with their formation into three was somewhat reminiscent of Macbeth’s three witches, heightening the audience’s expectation of the supernatural in their ensuing tales.

Their narrator (Alex Marsh) was dissimilar in his style, clashing with his fellow cast members which then gave way to a similarly clashing and awkward narration that occasionally appeared unrehearsed and overly hesitant. Although he executed some enjoyably sinister eyebrow flicks, his vocal style wasn’t quite natural enough to make the audience feel completely at ease.

The female characters were undeniably stronger than their narrator, executing physically animated and compelling performances of their tales of gods, dragons, witches and lovers. Most impressive were the Mother (Sebastian) and the Crone (Colgan). Like a witch performing spells, Sebastian used expressive, sweeping arm gestures and bodily movements to represent the mythical subjects of her story. Colgan’s performance as the Crone was equally accomplished, her Irish accent conjuring charming images of Celtic mythology. Both Sebastian and Colgan used the limited space excellently, moving up and down with the ebbs and flows of their stories. However, whilst Katharine Morris commanded the basement with her strong voice as the Maiden, her presence was less engrossing than her female counterparts, perhaps due to a lack of physical movement.

Throughout the performance, there seemed to be a clear divide between the energy of the cast. Whilst Sebastian and Colgan were arresting and dynamic as the Mother and the Crone, Marsh and Morris left much to be desired in their weaker and less spirited performances as the narrator and the Maiden. However, the production nonetheless retained the romantic charm that is essential in storytelling, rendering it an enjoyable showcase of mythical tales and folklore.

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