Pros: Modern and highly creative immersive approach to world literature.
Cons: The text got lost in the space and was very hard to understand.
Leviathan is without a question one of the most unusual and experimental theatre shows of the summer. The performance is presented by Living Structures a collective of artists who aim to create visual, physical and musical performances. Loosely based on the novel Moby Dick by Hermann Melville, Leviathan refuses to retell the story of Captain Ahab and his ship as a whole. It focuses instead on the mood and atmosphere of their voyage.
Leviathan is a very original approach to immersive theatre and promenade. When I arrived at Hackney Downs Studios I had to hand in my bag and received an oversized oilskin jacket. As a result, I immediately felt part of a ship’s crew ready to set sails. The first visual we see is a white cloth illuminated with an image of floating waves, out of which Ishmael rises. Having saved nothing else than is bare life, he is the only survivor of Captain Ahab’s disastrous hunt after the white whale.
Just like the novel, the fate of Ishmael is told backwards. The big cloth is rolled in and reveals an empty performance space with raised platforms on three sides. The audience stands in the middle and I felt more than ever on deck of a massive sailing ship. The performance continued around me on the platforms, within the audience as well as in the air, where Lina Jungergard and Pamela Pantoja gave breathtaking aerialist performances.
Living Structures use balloons, inflated cloths, music and vocals to portray the doomed hunt for the big whale. Every part of this performance triggered my imagination. I saw the stars on a windless night, felt the sea foam in my face and witnessed the anxiety of a crew who is at the mercy of Mother Nature. As a necessity the show is quite technical and includes a lot of rigging on stage. But it was completely integrated into the show and done in such slick way that I had the feeling I was watching sailors going about their jobs.
At some points the performance gave such a vivid impression of the harsh life at sea that I felt a bit intimidated. I am rather short and as some action took place in the middle of the audience or behind me, it sometimes took me a while to figure out what was going on and where to turn my head. Additionally, most of the few lines where spoken into a megaphone and I had problems understanding them, especially when the performers pointed the device in the opposite direction from where I was standing.
Leviathan is an exceptional combination of movement, music and visuals. The 50 minutes of the show completely transported me to a different world. It was exciting not to know what would happen next and to be constantly surprised. In the end I have seen many beautiful images on stage, but personally I would have loved a bit more focus on the narration of the plot. However my personal preference aside, I have no doubt this fascinating production will be loved and appreciated by many theatregoers who enjoy modern and unique performance art.
Artistic Director: Klaus Kruse
Musical Director/ Composer: Verity Standen
Visual Director: Ula Dajerling
Movement Director: Janina Rajakangas
Company: Living Structures
Producer: Konzept Arts & Ideas
Booking Until: 26 July 2014
Booking Link: http://www.seetickets.com/tour/leviathan