How often do you find yourself transported back to your childhood? Where the imagination runs wild and is free to invent stories and monsters aplenty. It’s the childhood we all had but, as we grow up, these playful times become further and further removed from the realities of adult life. Catch a man mumbling to himself and we pronounce he is mad, but what if he is casting a magical spell in front of him? Well, that can’t possibly be, because our imaginations can’t allow such things. We hit teenage years and come under the strict ruling of being proper and adult-like, but don’t we all yearn to be lost once more in our imaginations where anything is truly possible? Belt Up Theatre’s Outland is perhaps the closest thing I’ve seen to really deal with the idea of adults forgetting to play. I’ve seen other shows which have ignited my imagination, but never have I questioned my imagination – and even gone so far as to mourn it.
Inspired by the stories of Lewis Carroll and C.S. Lewis with rabbit holes and wardrobes leading to far away lands, Outland is a homage to all childhood stories and to the excitement of learning to imagine and play. It tells the story of Charles, a professor with a pocket watch that can send him forwards and backwards in time but most importantly, transport him to the distant land of Outland. In this other world another professor awaits, who is the counterpart to Charles, the two parallel worlds collide and crossover with ease. When one professor is awake, the other is asleep, but together they weave a magical journey. Arthur and Murial, two childhood friends who during long summers were taught stories by Charles, struggle with conflicted emotions of wanting to engage with their childhood lives as well as their adults existence. This is played out between magical lands and time travel, and many a sinister character who intervenes. Oh, and not forgetting The Jabbarwocky, the frightful monster that stalks the land.
In true Belt Up Theatre style, the performance space in C nova has been completely transformed to represent a warm and inviting living or parlour room. The audience sit around the sides, and are instructed into the performance when required, which under the guiding hands of the performers is done with much play and excitement. The key within Outland is the constant reminder that we forget to play as adults, and should we choose to, we can so easily lose our adultness to fun-filled adventure. The piece continually shifts and transforms as the various characters are played out in succession. Perhaps the most surprising feeling is how compelling the story becomes: we sink so willingly into Belt Up Theatre’s playful world that, if I’m honest, I’m not sure I wanted to leave it.
Filled with playful and imaginative exploration into childhood stories, Outland really is a magical adventure that captures the heart, sending you spiralling into the unknown. You’ll feel completely uplifted, and I dare you not to feel for a moment the desire to play with the company. With some truly inspiring performances, and a narrative that is passionate and enthralling, it’s easy to see why Belt Up Theatre are selling out. Be quick if you want to join in the adventure, and remember to bring your imagination.
**** – 4 Stars
Outland is playing at C nova until 27th August as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. For more information and tickets, see the Edinburgh Fringe website.