A Thing Mislaid – Attenborough Arts Centre, Leicester

Writers: Bethany Sheldon and Kathryn Lowe, devised with Teele Uustani, Raquel Pereira, Elena Casotto

Directors: Bethany Sheldon and Kathryn Lowe

Reviewer: Andrew Houghton

“What is home when you don’t belong, and how do you find belonging again in a new place?”

Despite its title, A Thing Mislaid is anything but lost, as Maison Foo deliver an imaginative and cleverly constructed tale of migration and hope, ever so relevant in today’s political climate.

Actresses Teele Uustani and Raquel Pereira begin onstage, clowning as the audience enter the space – a nice touch which establishes the playful tone of the evening’s proceedings. Already a chemistry radiates between the two and their evident charisma promises an entertaining evening.

The narrative begins with Flea (Uustani) running wildly, though no context is given until a cheerful Wanda (Pereira) catches up with the runner, who is reluctant to engage. What little information Wanda manages to extract is that Flea came from ‘back there’ and is headed ‘over there’. This is enough, however, for Wanda to invite herself along and so an unlikely friendship is set in motion. This exchange swiftly lines up the episodic structure of this production, described by its creators as an ‘abstract fairytale’, which may not lend itself to a concrete plot but the overarching theme of finding a home is impossible to miss. Indeed, A Thing Mislaid is much more interested in exploring the notion of journey than a specific path – and an episode involving a door that only some people can go through while others aren’t allowed requires little unpacking.

The unique style of miniature puppetry woven throughout the tale is a triumph. A handheld video camera projects onto the centre screen an up-close livestream of a journey through intricate and beautifully designed miniature landscapes. This impressive imagery, complemented by a cleverly thought-out soundscape, completely immerses the audience in the journey as it provides stunning visual sequences for scene changes, backdrops and even sequences for plot progression. Though there are occasional fumbles in which a rogue thumb might flash across the shot, these distractions are sparse and do not detract from the endearing storytelling style.

Teele Uustani and Raquel Pereira ensure that this journey is not without its laughs, and their natural connection is almost as mesmerising as the puppets they control.  An episode which sees the two women imagining themselves in a restaurant together is particularly enjoyable, as they enact silly but instantly recognisable moments of common restaurant etiquette. A true testament to their talents, however, is the haunting honesty of their performances when Flea has nowhere further to run.

A Thing Mislaid is a heart-warming and completely enjoyable story of hope which inspires reflection on current events but ultimately makes you smile.

Runs Until 21 October 2018 | Image: Robert Day

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The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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