Now Festival at The Yard is challenging the boundaries of theatre over five weeks of bold work. Deemed “a festival of new theatre for the here and now”, it comes at no surprise that the productions are some of the most innovative I have seen – breaking the mould of what we may expect from a theatre production. On this particular day, I was greeted with two extraordinary productions, Mandala and Our True Feelings, providing an eye-opening, stimulating night of theatre.
Mandala begins with the audience being divided into participants and observers. While the observers take their seats, the participants take to the stage and collect a speaker. With chalk markings covering the stage and each participant being assigned a different chalk path, there is an air of anticipation and excitement as we wait for the production to begin. Four bells cue music to begin welling around the space, creating an absorbing and curious soundscape.
As participants we follow our path, experimenting with pace and direction, allowing the sound to soar and dive around us. I began to notice how differently we interacted with other people and how the soundscape changed as we moved through the space, and how sound bubbles were created through standing close to others. I am unsure of our purpose on the stage, but Dávid Somló’s production creates a stunning soundscape, allowing us to focus on our interaction. From the observers’ side, the experience would be starkly contrasted, and I can imagine the visual would be stronger than the aural. However, without experiencing from both sides, it is difficult to judge the production based upon the observers’ experience.
In Our True Feelings a psychologist, who then introduces her two research patients, welcomes us to her experiment. We begin by being asked what emotions we are feeling and are led through an experiment where the two research patients portray the emotions physically in different states. We focus on happiness, sadness, disgust, anger, fear and disguise, all of which are accurately identified by the audience. However, as we take away either movement or facial expressions, some confusion begins to occur. It’s intriguing to see the effect of emotions on our bodies and we are helped to consider how we should be reacting to others. The physical movement of the piece is the most absorbing, accompanying the facts as an exploration of emotions, shown mostly by the research patients Eric and Helga.
Dog Kennel Hill Project has created a show within a science experiment, asking us to reevaluate our emotions and how we judge them. We learn how quickly we can misjudge others emotions and how a combination of facial expression and body language is often interpreted differently from how we intend it to be used. The science used is intriguing, with a stunning way of presenting the facts, but the production doesn’t seem entirely blended between science and theatre.
Now Festival is something not to be missed. No matter what you see at The Yard during this festival, there is no doubt that it will be interesting. The festival deals with thought-provoking and imaginative subjects, producing theatre without any limits and allowing artists to create masterful work with a willing audience.
Mandala and Our True Feelings played as part of Now Festival, which continues at The Yard until 11 June. For more information and tickets, see The Yard website.