Writer and Director: Inna Dulerayn
The concept of a child losing themselves in a magical world to shield themselves from a traumatic reality is a fertile ground for storytelling. One of the most recent successes, in literature and on stage, would be A Monster Calls, but it is a subgenre that has existed as long as storytelling has.
It is rare for a production to look as visually stunning as Mythosphere. Taking full advantage of the Stone Nest’s former life as a church, the tale is presented over two storeys, the vaulted arches covered in gauze onto which a variety of scenes are projected. Behind them, Edyta Budnik reads diary excerpts, her character struggling to make real friends or to understand her mother’s poor mental health, and for both reasons finding solace in a world of fairy magic.
The fairies themselves are adorned in intricate white outfits, inspired by birds, insects and fish. Anna Smirnova’s costumes are beautifully delicate, impressionistic creations – 1960s BBC sci-fi if designed with a limitless budget. The four onstage actors are supplemented by projected replicas, giving the impression of a much stronger, numerous presence.
The effect is quite beautiful. A shame, then, that it is in the service of a production which is quite so leaden and drawn out.
The story Budnik’s character relates progresses with glacial speed, not helped by a pause every few minutes for one of the fairies to deliver an operatic-style aria. Quite apart from the brakes this applies to the narrative, everything is presented at exactly the same snail’s pace. One is left screaming for an occasional change in tempo – maybe speeding up to a gentle largo, perhaps.
The second act does initially promise a much-needed change of pace. The little girl Budnik played in Act I is now much a older woman (Lucienne Deschamps), for whom magic has been replaced by routine and coffee mornings.
There is at least a welcome introduction of some self-aware humour in Deschamps’ delivery, which nevertheless cannot compensate for the languorous pomposity that continues to pervade proceedings.
Change is also present in the projections, which abandon the ethereal costumes for clips far more rooted in reality. Most impressive are a series of televisions which each present slightly differing versions of the same events, but there are also a series of talking heads, a cacophony of characters that hint at a real world that is crying out for some supernatural element in order to really become alive.
One of the most distracting elements of this set of projections is that while some segments are cropped to perfectly fit with the stage’s vaulted stone arches, others bleed out distractedly, an unusual choice for video presentations which elsewhere are so polished.
For all this, though, and despite the thankful lack of operatic pretensions, Act II of Mythosphere similarly spends too long wallowing in style to fully service the story it is trying to tell.
With an advertised running time of 2½ hours that, by the end, seems wildly optimistic, Mythosphere overstays its welcome by no small distance. Part of the problem is that Dulerayn has thrown so many ideas into one production that none is serviced successfully.
That is a shame, for there are elements of the piece that, if given the chance to dominate an entire show, would have the potential to become a truly magical performance. But in its current form and length, Mythosphere commits the cardinal sin of theatre – it is just boring.
Runs until 9 October 2021