Pros: Stirring performance that inspires and immerses its young audience members and works to appeal to non-theatre goers.
Cons: At times the immersive aspect felt overwhelming and was slightly distracting for me.
This being my first trip to Artsdepot, I was impressed with the quality and quantity of space. It has a very open, bright and airy atmosphere; like it’s just waiting for you to create something. Several floors are each filled with different studios and performance spaces. Artsdepot is situated deep in north London, so unless you are already in the northern part of the city, I’d leave yourself plenty of time to get there.
In the Pentland Theatre space of Artsdepot I took in Zest Theatre’s fully immersive production, Thrive. Aimed at an audience of young people aged 14+, Thrive tells the story of three other young people, Ollie, Ashleigh and Raph, whose mutual friend passes away suddenly. We follow these three teenagers as they deal with loss: missing their friend; pulling some people close; pushing others away or even partying in the face of their fears. It’s a story that shows the various ways that we deal with emotion as human beings and how, even when faced with the daunting idea of our mortality, we can still wake up the next day and choose to live with courage: to thrive.
It is quite obvious from the performances that this cast is passionate about the work they are doing and have their hearts tied in with it. Each actor reacts well to the others, making this truly an ensemble piece. Daniel Morgan gives a heartfelt performance as Ollie, one of the best friends of James, who has passed away. Ashleigh, played by Claire Gaydon, is subtle and sweet as the one who hides her true feelings beneath a mask. Luke Vernon as Raph is inspirational, really trying to take a positive feeling from the situation, but struggling. At one point he says ‘Loss and heartache, it’ll teach us how to thrive; give it time.’
Toby Ealden at the helm as the director of the piece and Artistic Director of Zest Theatre has given his actors the ultimate gift of permission to play off themselves and directly interact with the audience for 60 minutes each night. Ealden’s direction is strong and powerful. Using an immersive, promenade style, in line with Zest Theatre’s mission, it provides opportunity for participation and exploration of a whole different level with each audience. The rule of thirds used throughout the piece is eye-catching, and the use of various triangle shapes with ladders in Barney George’s set design is brilliant. Ben Pacey’s lighting design and Amy O’Sullivan’s choreography help to express the sometimes unspeakable emotion of the piece, as well as making the play feel young and alive. Joel Atkins’ score and design are perfectly pitched to appeal to a younger, party-driven generation.
The thing that most impressed me was the combination of all these creative elements to create a piece of theatre that a non-theatregoer could truly relate to. Not to say that the young people in attendance are not theatregoers, but it seemed as though it could touch even those who aren’t. Zest Theatre do an excellent job of making this story accessible and engaging to young people, theatregoers and non-theatregoers alike. Although Zest have wrapped up this leg of the tour, keep a look out for 2017 tour dates, as Thrive is one you don’t want to miss!
Author: Devised by the company
Director: Toby Ealden
Producer: Fiona Moon
Choreographer: Amy O’Sullivan
Sound Designer/Composer: Joel Atkins
Booking Until: This show has now completed its run.