Pros: The attention to detail is remarkable and emerges in every aspect of this production.
Cons: The quality of the audio-visual material is slightly affected by the venue, which is unable to provide adequate light and sound isolation.
The fourth edition of the One Festival has just closed at arts centre The Space. The event featured four different line-ups and I attended Programme A. This was a selection of solo performances which concluded, after a brief interval, with the show I was invited to review: The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall.
In the first half, four monologues follow each other in rapid succession. Get a Job, by Sebastian Rex, is broadcast live from Stacey Evans’s bedroom. The actress has something to say against immersive performances and the growing role of the audience, which, in her opinion, is stealing the actor’s job. Tripping with Trump, by Colleen Osborn, describs Alex Vincent’s acid trip in the company of Donald Trump. Bring me the Head of Claudia Winkleman, by Aaron Hubbard, is Avita Jay’s outburst about her mother’s Christmas presents. Foreign Body, written and performed by Imogen Butler-Cole, explores the cathartic function of theatre in overcoming sexual abuse. All four pieces have interesting aspects, but they still need some serious development.
On the contrary, The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfaall, appears as a completed work of art, polished in every aspect. It certainly reflects the long incubation, which started in 2009, when director and performer Vinicius Carvalho was still living in Brasil, his country of origin. The outcome is the wonderful journey of Hans Pfaall, a broke journeyman who manages to escape his creditors and reach the moon in his gas balloon. The original tale, published in 1835 by Edgar Allan Poe, is an illustrious precursor of the sci-fi genre and Carvalho does a great job at preserving its futuristic flavour, nearly two hundred years later.
This multimedia performance harmoniously combines a good dose of physical action – coming from the actor’s mime training – with Alex Paton’s ad hoc-composed score. The latter enhances the corporeal movement, and blends smoothly with the images projected on the background and the narration. The result is captivating, and its vivid content is surely able to stimulate the imagination, especially in younger audiences.
Equal care is given to props and costumes. The air balloon is an exquisite and essential support to Hans Pfaall’s account and the ‘condensation machine’ adds credibility to his scientific speculations. The appearance of hand-operated floating planets brings some old fashioned, mechanical aesthetic to the stage, and their glow against a starry sky looks beautiful in the darkness of the auditorium. Even an astronaut suit is part of the entertainment. My only regret is that some of the musical passages are quite long, and made me wish for a bit more action.
The Space, a former church in the Isle of Dogs, makes its contribution to the show with its high ceilings and, in the final scenes, the awe-struck spectators follow the balloon drifting away over their heads. Unfortunately, the very nature of the auditorium also affects the quality of the projections and makes it difficult to regulate the audio, which was at times too loud or echoing. With a clearer sound, I’d surely have enjoyed the musical sequences better.
Ultimately, The Unparalleled Adventure of one Hans Pfaall is a well-designed performance, which still has some space for improvement, but already displays great potential. Touring around different arts centres, this spectacle represents an engaging way to explore Poe’s pioneering sci-fi themes through the eyes of an inspired and dedicated artist.
Original Author: Edgar Allan Poe
Adapted by: Fool’s Cap Theatre
Directors: Vinicius Carvalho and Ramon Ayres
Composer: Alex Paton
Producer: Maggie Schroeder, Eygló Belafonte and Fool’s Cap
Booking Information: This show has now completed its run