The last time I saw Unlimited Theatre Company at the West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds, it presented an interactive game show focusing on money, economic downfall and obsession. After reading the leaflets advertising its new production, The Noise, I was incredibly excited about what it was going to bring to the table.
My excitement was certainly justified. The Noise was a visually stunning and engaging piece of theatre. It had strong characters, powerful imagery, and a fluid and focused narrative. The play was set on an island named Whitley near Antarctica, whose inhabitants live alongside an ever-changing presence of sound they call ‘The Noise’, which has been present for so long that they’ve stopped asking what its source is. A young teenager named Charlie and her best friend Harry are the only ones still keen to find its source, but things soon take a turn for the worse. A large and mysterious iceberg drifts and anchors itself next to the island, and Harry is found dead on the shore the day after he goes to investigate it. Charlie, now left with nobody to trust, takes it upon herself to discover the source of The Noise once and for all, but soon becomes wrapped up in a conspiracy that will change the world as she knows it forever.
You might think that a narrative as intricate as this would be incredibly difficult to present in the form of a play, but Unlimited Theatre manages to do it really well. They make fantastic use of the space in the Playhouse’s Courtyard Theatre, with almost every area of the stage serving a purpose. I particularly like how the company represented the iceberg’s ever-ominous presence next to the island – they got some pipes and turned them into a jagged triangular framework that was lit in some nice, icy colours. Charlie often spoke to the iceberg, creating the impression that the iceberg was something alien from the outside world, away from the island, and that it was Charlie’s only form of sanctuary and escape.
In the production, there were also various images that were projected onto the stage, such as when Charlie was using her friend Harry’s laptop to search for clues to his whereabouts. This was a lovely touch and it is nice to see media interacting with theatre. I would have liked there to have been more of it, as it would have made the production much more memorable and interesting to watch.
Having said that, the play was fantastic and managed to tick plenty of boxes with regards to its narrative, its set design and its characters. The leaflet didn’t lie when it said the play was a “sonic and visual feast” and it’s lovely to see a thrilling and engaging story interweaved with vivid imagery and a comment on the world we live in today.
The Noise played at the West Yorkshire Playhouse and continues on tour. For more information and tour dates see the Unlimited website.