Touring – reviewed at Stratford Circus, London
Oily Cart makes gently immersive, highly sensory performances for people under five years old, and people with complex needs. This winter-themed touring show for little ones takes them into a world of colourful lights, dark shadows and sparkly parcels that reveal an array of treasure, from reams of bubble wrap, to coloured lights to a magnificent puppet constructed out of cellophane. As lights dim and glow amidst the white drapes and shimmering cushions, children are invited to explore the tactile, etherial landscape that evokes the the wonder of unwrapping presents on a snowy Christmas morning.
There are few words in this show. Instead, movement tells a simple story consisting of two performers discovering each other and the complexity of the world around them. They weave in and out of sheets, play with light and objects, and make shadows on cloth and paper covered walls, floor and ceiling. Small torches combine with scraps of cloth, bits of plastic and swooping, delicate dance to make all sorts of shapes.
As much as the environment provides much to watch and listen to, particularly as cloth drops and flaps from the ceiling and light constantly changes, there’s also freedom to move about and engage with the carefully-constructed world of the show through touch. A constant soundscape and creative enabler Phoebe Kemp add further stimulation; the children can feel the vibrations of the sound, have a go at making shadows with their hands and bits of bubble wrap, and stick paper to a cellotape maze. The infectious joy of discovery emanates from the performers and the audience, and it’s impossible not to smile.
Whilst not the most physically comfortable environment for older, bigger and less limber bodies like mine – I perch on a low wooden box at the back of the room, hunching over to write notes and struggling to keep my feet from falling asleep or being a trip hazard – I am far from the target audience of this show. It is clear that Oily Cart still put access at the heart of their work, though. Ear defenders are readily at hand, signing is used, people can come and go as needed, and any movement or noise is welcome. Inclusivity extends to their performers as well; Kemp is a wheelchair user. Of the two performers, Aya Nakamura and Lee Phillips, one has a learning disability.
Even the ending is gentle – there is no curtain call or applause. Instead, the performers slowly finish their last moment, begin to tidy the space, and wave goodbye. This serves as a a signal that it’s time to go, but it’s quiet and no one is rushed. It’s a lovely way to phase back into the real world outside.
All Wrapped Up tours the UK through February.
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