DramaPulse FestivalReviewSouth East

PULSE FESTIVAL 2016: The Flanagan Collective – Fable

Writer: Alexander Wright
Director: Joe Hufton
Composer: Jim Harbourne
Reviewer: Glen Pearce
Venue: New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich


‘We are made of starstuff’ – so said astronomer, scientist and author Carl Sagan. For J, a Birmingham teacher, the stars are not only part of what makes her, but also where she longs to be.

A would-be astronaut, barred because of a heart condition, she dreams of being among the constellations and being alongside the M62 – the nebula that is, not the motorway and the infamous Spaghetti Junction where she lives.

The Flanagan Collective’s Fableis as twisty and unravelling as the featured motorway junction, each corner taking us on a slightly different path.

For J, that path leads to remote western Scotland and a poetry-penning tree surgeon Blair. Whether the trip from Birmingham to Scotland to meet someone after one brief message on a dating app is logical is questionable, but however the mechanism of their meeting, the two strike up an unlikely bond.

Fusing storytelling, song, performance poetry and a live musical score, Fable has moments of magical storytelling. It also fuses romantic comedy with astronomy and quantum physics, not an easy mix to pull off.

It is all pulled off with a sweetness and charm but it’s that sweetness that also ultimately robs it of its power. It takes an eon for our two protagonists to meet and by the time they do is seems somewhat too late. We learn a lot about J but virtually nothing about Blair and the reasons he writes poetry when not wielding his chainsaw. That imbalance seems a missed opportunity and one that makes it hard to fully engage with the piece.

There’s real inventiveness shows in the simple stage, including clever use of projection, but with the, now old school, method of a slide projector. The projector centre stage somewhat dominates and becomes an unwanted distraction.

The journey our characters take is a meandering one, and while they paint some evocative images along the route, ultimately it’s a journey that seems somewhat strained. There are though strong performances fromHolly Beasley-Garrigan and Dominic Allen with onstage musical accompanimentfrom Wilfred Petherbridge.

There’s some real imagination on show here and some delightful performances. With some work on structure and tightening up of the running time this could be a magical little show, sprinkled with stardust.

Reviewed on 3 June 2016 | Image: Alex Brenner


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