Writer: The Company – based on a book by Dan Mallaghan
Animators: Fabric Lenny and Lou Sumray
Reviewer: Holly Spanner
When visitors to Leeds Library were asked to record their memories of fairy tales, these memories went on to inspire a set of 13 paintings and prints and were transformed into a new story by 154 Collective. Herein began Under the Bed. In carrying out research for the piece, writer Dan Mallaghan and animation artist Fabric Lenny immersed themselves so much in the design, that they spent a week living in a cabin in the woods.
Co-commissioned by ARC Stockton and Theatre in the Mill, Alice, after hearing her mum and dad argue, is whisked away to a strange house. Emotions are running high as Alice’s mum desperately tries to hold it together for her daughter, while Alice grows fearful of the strange noises and shadow lurking under her bed. But what happens when the shadow also, takes Alice to another world – regardless of whether or not she wants to go?
Under the Bed is one of the most creative productions you’re likely to see. A two-hander, it also features live music from a trio of musicians, while two animators, Fabric Lenny and Lou Sumray, are positioned either side of the stage. The music is a haunting, beautiful accompaniment to the animations. An original score, the songs are expressive and as near to perfect as you are going to get for the production.
The advertised real time animations are little more than lighting and creative use of netting to create an uneasy presence underneath Alice’s bed. However, the projected animations are delightful, even strangely hypnotic at times. Some of the ideas explored in the production are subtle and require a degree of thought on the part of the audience. The animation sequence of the monster repeatedly changing to a girl is a solemn reminder that our worst enemy lies within ourselves.
There is splendid improvisation from the young actressEmily Mallaghan, playing Alice, who is on stage for the majority of the production, and is simply a star. Juxtapose with the mother (Leanne Rowley), who is feeling the guilt of her circumstances, there is a direct contrast of innocence and imagination, with the harshness of reality and the inevitable passage of time.
Under the Bed is at times sobering, but may just remind you of a lost naiveté. It is charming, nostalgic and moving. On the two nights it played at Bradford’s Theatre in the Mill, the 80-minute production was sold out – so, if you see this production playing, get your tickets early, but do get them.
Reviewed on 6 November 2015 | Image: Contributed