Review: Reykjavik

Reykjavic, the smoky Icelandic city, is a mystical and illusive place to settle in. The nfamiliar city seems to shift and change of its own accord, from slippery ice glaciers to warm inviting hot pools for bathing. In Sham’s Reykjavik it is a journey onto the unfamiliar ground of love, translation and transitional journeys that come from this strange city.

Jonathan Young’s exceptional performance as he moves from the excitement and romance of Paris, to the chilling and cold-shouldered Reykjavik, is a joy to witness and explore. As an audience, we are invited into Young’s take upon the city: we emerge into a white walled cubical with projections fluttering around us. Before this we don white boiler suits and goggles, to become an identical chorus for the Reykjavik story.

Where Reykjavik excels is in its inventiveness in exploring the space. As the identically-dressed spectators, our presence is a vital catalyst to the story, allowing the piece to be framed or intimately presented. Sometimes, the play utilises the twenty-five audience members as extra bodies within the story. It is hard to guess what configuration you might find yourself in next, and we give ourselves over rather willingly, helped greatly by Young’s captivating performance. He is very much the centre of the whole performance, and it is his dreamlike qualities, his association with the Icelandic language and his portrayal of a lost soul that make Reykjavik such an enjoyable experience.

The inventive use of the space sees projection work by Paul Burgess fluttering from wall to wall, seamlessly integrating with the story. At times, lighting tricks become cars racing past on the roads, or simply a disco. Whilst we never really travel far within the space, there is a sense of trajectory. Reykjavik never seems to stay still for a moment, instead the images and fragmented moments are conjured before us just as quickly as they fade into the next. The recalling of memory here is linked within the work, furthered by the connections the company have made with academic bodies such as the Wellcome Trust.

Whilst there is a sense of movement and joy within Reykjavik, this inability to settle – be it character, location or even within the performance space itself – does make it difficult to fully connect with the piece. The emotion is never found, and whilst Young is a compelling performer, alongside two endearing fellow performers (Sinikka Kyllonen and Steve Loader), I can’t help but to desire more from him and the work. However as a whole, the concept of exploration alongside an excellently conceived space, you do leave feeling that theatre doesn’t have to be a sit down, stale affair. It can twist and turn, it can move the audience physically from moment to moment, and it can produce beauty just as quickly as it can remove it.

I’d keep an eye on Sham’s future work because there is something within it that seems to stand out. What this quality, or feeling, is I’m unsure, but for something completely unusual, tender and informative, Reykjavik most certainly delivers.

Reykjavik is playing at The Albany Theatre in Depford until 14th May. For more information and to book tickets, see the website here.

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