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Where the White Stops, Battersea Arts Centre

Devised by ANTLER

★★★

Pros: Playful physical storytelling in abundance. Different from anything else in London at the moment.

Cons: It’s a shame that not all the dialogue was audible.

Our Verdict: An imperfect, but enjoyable archetypal fable.

As I write this review, it is in the middle of a heat wave. This being the case, it does seem a little strange to

Courtesy of Antler Theatre

write about a play that’s set in a land permanently under a blanket of snow. Where The White Stops begins with Crab (Jasmine Woodcock-Stewart), who is intrigued about life beyond the village in ‘the White’. This leads in due course to her quest beyond her village and along the way, bumping into various people as she explores the unknown.

The show is performed by only four actors, but they inject a sense of fun into the proceedings, rather like Stones In His Pockets and The 39 Steps. The physical comedy is well thought out and it’s nice to have a show where you can laugh easily at regular intervals. I found the flashbacks particularly funny, where the Carpenter recalls how she knows Crab’s name and Crab’s friend Narwahl (Daniel Ainsworth) remembers how he crossed the snow. Naso Voutsas who plays Wodwo – one of the residents of ‘the White’ – wordlessly had the audience in hysterics with his facial expressions, and also surprisingly produced moments of pathos.

As the show was devised by the entire ANTLER theatre group, it has no overall director. Instead, the play was a collective effort in its conception and direction. Armed only with a minimum of props and the arrangement of their voices, they convey the wintry conditions and obstacles that Crab faces.

The performance that I saw, however, was one of – if not the – first performances of Where The White Stops, and as such, there were a few things that evidently needed to be tweaked. There were a handful of occasions when the dialogue was softly spoken, and as such, the audience had to strain to hear everything. Perhaps, as it was very warm that evening, the cast’s throats were parched. In any case, voice projection is something that’s easily remedied, but it makes the world of difference to the audience’s understanding and enjoyment of what’s going on.

As I mentioned earlier, Crab meets various people during her trek. Characters such as the Carpenter and Elia (both played by Daniela Pasquini) hint at having a shared past, but nothing is overtly said. Maybe the ambiguity was intentional, but I did end up wanting to know how their character arcs end. In addition, when Elia is held prisoner by King Soft Face, I don’t recall any mention of how she came to be in her predicament in the first place or why the king kept on dancing around her. I would go so far as to say that we could have had less of the ‘dancing’ and more time spent clarifying certain plot points.

I have been debating whether the performance that I saw deserved three stars or four. Certainly, it was much better than average, yet there were noticeable things that hindered my overall enjoyment. In the end, I’ve opted to go for three stars, purely on the performance that I saw that evening. I would, however, say that there were moments of pure comedy gold and ingenious inventiveness, and that if ANTLER addressed the voice projection and other points I raised, I’m confident it will be universally applauded when it is performed in Edinburgh.

By the time this review is posted, the previews of this show will have finished. However, as it is showing at the Edinburgh Festival, there is a good chance it will be back in the capital soon. It’s certainly worth making your own expedition to see it if you’re in Edinburgh or if it returns to the capital.

Please feel free to leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments section below!

Where The White Ends at Battersea Arts Centre has now finished. It will run at the Edinburgh Fringe from 1st August – 25th August 2013 
Box Office: 0207 223 2223 or book online at www.edfringe.com and www.underbelly.co.uk

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