Bridge Theatre, London – until 6 June 2021
Over the course of this pandemic, we’ve seen what constitutes ‘theatre’ completely recalibrated: now it can take place on a zoom screen without leaving your desk or living room, with the actors not necessarily in the same room (or even country) as each other; or as here, without actors entirely (except on a pre-recorded audio soundtrack) but with the cast comprising tiny figurines on miniature sets passing in front of you.
This is the magical, miniature Lilliputian-scaled world conjured by the Glasgow-based company Vox Motus and brought to each spectator individually but with perfect synchronisation, on a rotating carousel of tiny set models.
It tells the desperate, arduous journey of immigration of two young men from Afghanistan, who are determined to get to London, via travels and travails across stormy seas aboard a flimsy boat, and through Italy until they finally reach France.
There they find themselves in the Jungle, the Calais refugee camp theatregoers already got to know via Good Chance’s extraordinary The Jungle, first at the Young Vic in 2017, then at the West End’s Playhouse, Off-Broadway’s St Ann’s Warehouse and other venues.
From there, with the white cliffs of Dover in sight, they come to Britain via a refrigerated truck of animal carcasses. The detail is all the extraordinary sets that appear in turn in front of us — most of them not bigger than a shoebox — is gorgeous; the soundtrack haunting, as their story is voiced for them to the accompaniment of a musical soundtrack and sparing use of sound effects.
This is an utterly extraordinary, and intensely moving, show, presented in a backstage area at the Bridge Theatre where it is co-presented with the Barbican Centre, that pushes the envelope in terms of form and content. It’s not puppet theatre; it’s static figurine theatre.
And yet it offers 45 minutes of quietly exquisite storytelling that packs a powerful punch. An intimate and overwhelming experience, in spellbinding miniature.
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