Touched Theatre's Blue

Editor’s Note: The following review is of a work-in-progress, and thus Touched Theatre’s Blue was incomplete when reviewed.

Touched Theatre’s Blue is a promenade piece blending puppetry, physical performance, projection and lyrical new writing. It throws itself playfully in a myriad of directions that unfortunately make the audience feel a little lost. The company uses some wonderful and imaginative devices, but the piece as a whole just doesn’t come together for me. I wanted more atmosphere, stronger story and character to grasp onto and a reason for this piece to be in promenade.

We wander through the rooms of The Nightingale theatre and make the acquaintance of three characters, all of whom knew Sylvie Dee. This woman is missing — presumed dead — and this performance is an exploration of loss, attachment and how we come to terms with a disappearance. Sylvie Dee was also, apparently, an eco-activist and someone who helped those close to her to live better lives. The story, as much as I could extract from the poetic text, is a little too involved: there are too many strands floating around in these rooms for an audience to latch onto. Although many of them are beautifully written, the narrative could do with some simplifying, by addressing the question of what Blue is really about at its heart. For a promenade piece to work it needs to immerse its audience in its atmosphere, in the whole world of the performance, in a way that a more traditional theatre set-up can’t. There are moments in Blue that do this, but they are sudden bursts of life that illustrate what this performance could be with a little more development.

There is some excellent use of puppetry with blue, rudimentary clay-like figures used to represent this missing person. Music is effective, with original compositions being played out of small wooden chests in rooms — sometimes bursting into a scene and changing the tone completely, other times gently complementing what is said. Projection is used in a playful way, particularly towards the end of the piece where bodies and cardboard boxes become canvases for images.

The images we see are most often of nature and the most poetic moments in the text are inspired by Sylvie’s love of the natural world. Nature becomes one with emotions and I can tell there is a strong atmospheric force behind this piece just waiting to touch the audience. As it is, however, words and images tended to wash over me so that I couldn’t quite grasp what the piece is all about; text and images just need focusing that little bit more.

We are told before we enter the space that this is Touched Theatre’s first attempt at a promenade performance. In this case I will be interested to see what they come up with for the next one, having learnt from this. It’s a playful and imaginative piece, and there are some beautiful moments that could blossom into so much more.

Blue: An Experiment in Puppetry played at The Nightingale theatre on June 1 and 2. For more information, see the Brighton Fringe website.