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Blue, Pleasance Theatre – Review

Beccy Smith

Directed by Darren East
★★★
Pros: Intimate setting, the original musical compositions and the beautiful, magical moments the show created.
Cons: The performance was somewhat ephemeral, and both the narrative and the characters could have been stronger. In this instance, less might have been more.
Our Verdict: A piece with great potential that needs further development in order to be truly immersive and captivating.
Credit: TouchedTheatre
Blue is an interactive mystery show that allows a small audience to catch a glimpse of the lives of an eclectic bunch of people living near the south coast of England. Through a playful combination of puppetry, lyrical writing, evocative music, physical performance and projection, we are told of the mysterious disappearance of the enigmatic character Sylvie Dee by the ones who loved her.
This is a promenade piece by TouchedTheatre, premiering at the Pleasance Theatre as part of the SUSPENSE London Puppetry Festival 2013. While the show did have its magical moments, the overall impression I had was one of topics being lightly touched upon before we were rushed onto the next. This rapid pace meant that a coherent whole was never created and a story of real substance never really built. I left feeling somewhat confused and wanting stronger characters and a better thought-out narrative. Despite being labelled an immersive performance, I was never truly immersed in the atmosphere or the story, even though the intimate setting lends itself to this.
As audience members of this promenade performance, we wander around the boiler room of the Pleasance Theatre with Sylvie’s best friend, played by Zoe Hunter, Sylvie’s former boyfriend Nick, Joshua Varty, and a lonely fisherman who claims to have loved her. The three characters invite the audience into their living rooms, beckoning us to sit on the couch, have a pint and feel at home. They all recount stories and memories of Sylvie and her relationships with them, including the last time they saw her. All seem to be weighed down by guilt, by a feeling of not having done enough and by jealousy of Sylvie’s other friends. There is an emotional directness that I really liked, even though I do not feel as though I really understood these emotions. The three were hurt, but not necessarily because Sylvie had left them – she seemed to have had a power over them that they could not quite explain in words. 
Sylvie, we learn, was a lover of nature and brought the community together with her party planning activities. On TouchedTheatre’s website she is described as an eco-activist and a self-appointed orphan. She seems an elusive, somewhat lost character even before she actually disappears. It never is resolved why or how she vanishes into thin air, leaving only her Facebook page and a blue jacket for her friends to find, before they have to try and piece together what happened to her.
There is some beautiful use of puppetry, and the little wooden blue-tinged figures who represent Sylvie do seem to come alive under the talented actors’ hands. The figures seem fragile and lonely, but at the same time demonstrate willpower and a mind of their own. The music, original compositions that create evocative images, is cleverly used. At times it complements the action so well that I only heard it subconsciously, and sometimes it manages to change the mood of the performance space completely.
I also very much enjoyed the lyrical new writing, such as when Nick describes all the elements that work together to create a fresh juicy apple. Projection is used creatively as characters, scarves and other props are transformed into canvases. There are some very good ideas and great work all around. With a bit more polishing of the overall narrative and tying together of loose threads, Blue could become a real success.
Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!
Blue has now completed its run at the Pleasance Theatre.

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