THEATRE REVIEW: Souvenirs ★★★

Warwick Arts Centre
12th November 2014

When you walk into the space, you enter through the curtain and it almost feels like you have entered another world, as what lies on the other side is this space full of paper, and cardboard boxes, all placed together to create this staging on many levels. There is a wooden tree with hanging strips of newspaper and scrunched up balls. There is also fairy lights draping over the top with hanging birds from it, a lantern, and lastly soothing music, accompanied with a live musician at the back. It all feels very magical, and the whole set looks really inventive and imaginative. Another nice touch is having the programmes placed in boxes on the floor for the audience to pick up, and the boxes are labelled 'Souvenirs'.

The show is extremely inventive, and with just a running time of 70 minutes, takes you along a journey through different characters stories. Its very hard to explain how each segment effects you, but the way they are performed on stage are very physical. The pieces really can make you laugh, like the birdman story, where the actors are playing children, whilst other segments really make you think, like the wine bottle sequence finishing off the show.

Throughout the play though there was one recurring character, who started, finished, and came in between each sequence of the show. This was the role of the King/Queen, and was represented though multi rolling of the cast. It was a joy to watch this character, as these sections involved Forum Theatre, the technique used by Agusto Boal. Each section of this character also introduced the item that the following sequence was using.

They started the show with newspaper, so three members of the audience were brought up to create paper airplanes and fly them. The second was fabric, which involved an audience member sweeping up the newspaper, whilst one actor, portraying a ghost, would then get the swept up paper and run across stage dropping it again. The third, Cardboard, involved a sword fight between an audience member and actor, and finally, the bottle, had the king walk around the audience, choosing females to kiss the end of the wine bottle, before than wiping it with a tissue to add the comedic effect.

I really enjoyed how each of these were presented, and to have the character multi rolled help the audience see a different interpretation given by the actors. There were also a few influences seeming to come out from each segment, like Frantic Assembly being used for the physical areas of the production and Gecko's Breath playing an important role in the wine bottle sequence, and also clowning being an influence for the children's scene using cardboard. The actors spoke afterwards explaining how during one rehearsal session, they were given twenty minutes just to mess about with the cardboard, and this gave them help and inspiration on what they could then use for their final piece.

The live music playing in the background also helped the production feel fresh, and really suited the pieces and the tones of each of the sequences, which came as no surprise after finding out that the music was composed by the musician after reading the poems that were being narrated over the top of the segments, and getting the vibes from the actors actions whilst in the rehearsal process, which they had only 6 weeks before the show premiered.

Souvenirs felt like a very innovative, experimental, and thought provoking piece. It made you set foot into this magical world of cardboard structures and lights, letting your imagination run wild, and really had me as an audience member transfixed on this brilliant devised piece that made me feel, whilst leaving the theatre, calmed, relaxed, and hoping that everyone else in the audience felt the sense of comfort that the show certainly gave to me.


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