thing with feathers

REBEKAH-MIRON CLAYTON was not impressed with this piece of physical theatre

ADC ADC lateshow devised devised theatre physical theatre thing with feathers

thing with feathers, ADC, 11pm, 5th March 2014, £6/£5

The underlying concept of thing with feathers is an informative piece on the history of aviation.

To me, this concept seems ideally suitable as an children’s educational piece – I think this is a positive reading of the production as for this purpose it would be ideal. As an ADC late show, however, it felt somewhat lost. The plot unfortunately fell into the trap of devised theatre: it felt underdeveloped and tacked on. At times it felt as though the characters were desperately clutching to pieces of aviation history in order to give the production the depth it needed, but instead it translated across as disjointed. The piece’s main attraction was instead the focus on the ensemble of dancers who looked as though they had raided the ADC’s costume cupboard, and it appeared that this was where most of the production’s energy had been spent. Perhaps director had unfortunately been carried away with an initial idea that then became simplistic, odd and misplaced in production.

A production that got a bit carried away

This is not to suggest that the play was devoid of things to admire. Joanna Vymeris must be applauded for her sensational aerobatics, as she hung precariously from hoops and ribbons, and demonstrated some very entertaining talents. Although this was the most impressive facet of the play, it did distractingly take place over a segment of dialogue and as a result upstaged the plot. This was often the case within this production: attempts at dialogue were overshadowed by a stage crammed with (mostly out of sync) dancers, participating with gusto. There were however a few exceptions, such as when the mother figure spoke frankly to the absent father figure about the terrors of trying to touch the sky, proclaiming ‘is the sky really worth it?’. The make-believe feel of the production was swept away here, allowing the audience a glimpse of some perhaps more understandable emotion. These father and mother characters added a touch of comedy throughout that was much appreciated, and shared some endearing engages, particularly their rendition of ‘Fly me to the moon’.

Glimpses of dancing and acting ability emerged amidst the ensemble periodically, such as Livvy Stamp’s short piece on death, drawing a sinister and communicative character for the short time she was allowed the spotlight. A special mention must go to Tara Thean who danced a lovely and engaging solo but could have been given more of a chance to show her talents in the rest of the play, instead of the other slightly clumsier dancers who took to the fore-stage at times. It was clear that the director was determined to cram the piece with theatrical tricks, however I must suggest that at times less is more, and beware of using props for props’ sake. Coat hangers, for example, were used at one point, which I don’t doubt had some purpose, however it wasn’t communicated and so just seemed a bit strange.

thing with feathers is an endearing piece of devised physical theatre that, although visually interesting  was performed to possibly the wrong audience and left me feeling far from impressed.