Pros: Everyone can easily relate to the topic.
Cons: The lip-sync doesn’t fit well and, as a result, is quite distracting.
Verbatim is a form of theatre where the exact spoken word of one or more subjects becomes the script for the actors on stage. It can send out a resounding message, thanks to its immediacy and unfiltered structure. Theatre company RedBellyBlack take the whole concept a step further by basing their piece on the actual audio recording of various individuals answering the question ‘where do you see yourself a year from now?’. The answers come from fourteen different characters but only the first five are done live, with the performers giving voice to their own thoughts. Then, Christopher Montague, Oscar Scott-White, Jessica Warshaw, Kate Goodfellow and Clementine Mills take turns centre-stage to lip-sync to the pre-recorded replies given by a multifaceted range of characters.
Entangling physicality and upbeat musical inserts, we hear, amongst others, the point of view of an elderly duo, a six year old boy, a teenage girl, a couple of young parents and some young adults overcoming serious illnesses. We learn about coming of age, coping mechanisms, long and short future perspectives, fears and hopes. It’s easy to sympathise with the tales and you’ll definitely recognise yourself in some of the stories, that range from cute to deeply moving.
The visual side of A Year From Now dims the intensity of a play that has at its core a brilliant idea – exploring the anxiety about the future and its unpredictable surprises – which anyone can eventually relate to. I didn’t appreciate the decision to keep the original audio, with the actors lip-synching over it. They often missed their cues, the mouth movements looked unnatural and, more generally, the awkwardness of their attempt to follow the recorded speech felt quite distracting. At some point, I became so conscious of it that I couldn’t focus on the words anymore, with scrappy choreography adding to the discrepancy between audio and movement. Occasionally the activity on stage becomes frenetic to the point of overshadowing the poignancy of the spoken message and defeating its whole purpose.
Verbatim theatre is a powerful tool in the right hands but it requires a suitable setting and, on this occasion, it would have been better for the five on stage to focus on the physical aspect and let the voiceovers flow freely in the auditorium. Alternatively, the actors could have impersonated a number of characters themselves, but this would have excluded the use of the original answers which are the most interesting feature of this hour-long performance.
Choreographer, Producer and Co-Creator: Kate Goodfellow
Director and Co-Creator: Vicki Baron
Producer: RedBellyBlack Theatre Company
Box Office: 07598 676 202
Booking Link: http://www.vaultfestival.com/event/a-year-from-now/2017-01-25/#details|2
Booking Until: 29 January 2017