Pros: A wonderfully-crafted and beautifully-executed piece, which is at times both heart-warming and dark. The combination of puppetry, music and film is captivating.
Cons: The sheer amount happening on a small stage is initially a little distracting, but it doesn’t take long for the focal point to become clear.
It’s always a pleasure to see a production at Battersea Arts Centre, with it’s beautiful marble staircase entrance and its maze of rooms, so many of which are used with incredible frequency to stage an interesting programme of events. Feral is certainly one of those which can be called a highlight. Its intriguing mix of puppetry, sound and film is captivating, and the whole concept was immensely enjoyable.
It tells the story of ‘Joe’ and his memories of how life has changed in the seaside town he grew up in, from the fairground visiting days of his childhood, during which the room was filled with the sweet sticky smell of candyfloss and the sound of seagulls overhead. We see him grow older and gradually the town becomes a completely different place, with rioting in the streets, violence and chaos. There’s a nostalgia in this tale which is familiar and affecting – a yearning for a place which has changed beyond recognition and will never return to how it was experienced as a child. The transitional period in growing up, seeking permission to go out for an evening, and the slight social awkwardness of childhood and teenage years is portrayed beautifully.
There is a great deal happening in a small space, and prior to the film projection really beginning, it was quite distracting to have a number of people working on a range of media. Once the film really got started and the story began to unfold, it was captivating.
The attention to detail is wonderful, from the little squirrel who appears throughout the piece to terrorise the town vicar, to the newspapers popping through the doors to deliver bad news to the townspeople when the place has descended into disarray. There is very little speech throughout most of the piece, and live sound as well as recorded sound effects are used wonderfully to transport us into the changing environments.
This is a very short run at BAC, but the company are taking it out on a countrywide tour this Autumn and I for one would quite happily travel out of town to catch them again.