Theatre in Wales

Theatre, dance and performance reviews

Great Outdoor Show


Citrus Arts , Chapel Court- Aberystwyth Arts Centre , August-08-18
Shipwrecks by Citrus Arts For the second time in a month an outdoor summer production takes place outdoors and features nets clogged with plastic detritus. The similarities between Citrus Arts' touring show and Small World's “Cragen” end there. The first most striking difference is Will Datson's design. The prow of a wooden ship emerges from Aberystwyth's green Chapel Court space. It is both angled upward, at seventy degrees, and tilted. Dangling ropes and a mast of steel six metres high with plenty of rungs are promise of what is to come.

Before the performance has begun the atmosphere has been set with Craig Byrne's music. It contains rumbles and the sounds of cables under stress. Over the course of the wordless performance it hypnotises with electronica, drum and guitar breaks. James Doyle-Roberts is director and Bridie Doyle-Roberts choreographer for the performers Hannah Darby, Fran Widdowson, Ludovic Helin and Mim Wheeler.

“Shipwrecks”, with a subtitle “Receivers of The Wreck”, opens with a solitary Ben Gunn-like figure. Her hair is long and bleached with sun and salt, her clothing made from tattered skins. The set is filled with plastic bottles containing written messages thrown to the waves. Her solitariness is invaded by three others, entering from three directions in the ingenious set. Their dress is more martial with boots and buckles, “Fury Road” meeting “Treasure Island.” Costume design is by Rhiannon Matthews.

Thematically “Shipwrecks” plays with the need for solitude against the urge to connect. Evasion and hide-and-seek elide into joint action and displays of gymnastic circus skills. All the time the action is driven by the thrill of Craig Byrne's music. It ends on the same note as Sondheim's “Sweeney Todd.” There a door slams in finale, here a trapdoor in the deck slams shut and the scene is emptied of humans.

Aberystwyth's main space is out of action for refurbishment. A series of outdoor and tent events takes place across August. The first was a resounding successful circus display from Ethiopia. Opera and musical theatre are to follow. With touring companies not as plentiful in the west as they once were, Citrus Arts' thrilling, visceral production is cause for celebration and appreciation.

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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