GBS Theatre, London – until 7 July 2018
The 2018 RADA Festival kicks off in fine style with the extraordinary physical work of New Public’s Lucid and the enchanting charm of Hot Coals’ Knock Knock.
The annual festival brings together RADA graduates and a network of diverse theatre-makers to showcase a real range of daring theatre-making. As one of the headline shows of the festival, New Public’s Lucid is front and centre in the billing and well it might be, as it is an ingenious and imaginative piece of physical theatre work.
Lucid is an attempt to make corporeal the elusive hinterland that is our dreams. From anxiety about weddings, exams or if you’re wearing any trousers to the expression of unexpected sexual desire, from the fulfilment of your deepest wishes to something as mundane as getting a glass of milk, it’s all here and more as the unknowable terrain of the subconscious is deftly explored.
To describe the show as highly physical is to do it a real disservice. It is a constantly surprising, often breath-taking kaleidoscope of endeavour that I found utterly compelling from the off. From the way in which each of the five-strong company embodies different kinds of alarms to the sheer abandon with which bodies are flung, clambered over, and contorted to create any number of scenarios.
And as physically impressive as it all is, it is clear that Lucid is deeply considered too. The final sequence is properly, laugh-out-loud hilarious but other sections mine a vein of darkness that David Lynch would be proud of, unafraid to explore the kind of symbolism that might well frighten us. So all credit to Stefanie Bruckner, Dean Elliott, Tom Kelsey, Jo Moss and Katariina Tamm and I’m definitely recommending this one, I might even try and go back myself!
Knock Knock was equally wordless, but an entirely different kettle of fish in the world it depicted. Devised and performed by Hot Coals Theatre, with the avowed aim of creating highly visual shows that are d/Deaf and Hearing inclusive, it turned to the world of dark fairy tales and woodland magic to present us with a world free from the need for conventional language, either signed or spoken.
Jo Sargeant and Clare-Louise English play an open-hearted pair of forest dwellers who, on meeting, fall hard for each other’s charms, building the kind of relationship that works for them. But as ideas of gender norms and societal expectation encroach on their idyll, the strength of their connection is tested. Using their own idiosyncratic performance style – part clowning, part physical theatre, part straight-up-storytelling – they nail it.
In the atmospheric surroundings of an impressively realised set, the pair did brilliantly at establishing the physical and emotional contours of this world, their own places within it (as a herbalist and a woodcutter) and also as a delightfully touching, burgeoning couple. And even if I’m still trying to wrap my head around how the heavy use of a musical soundtrack stands up to being a truly inclusive show, Knock Knock’s inventiveness is nevertheless admirable.