“Percy?”, the voice of a child welcomes me as Elephant Talk Theatre’s show Finding Percy Erebus commences on my screen. It is Phoebe’s (Catherine Manwaring) voice calling out for her friend Percy. In the show — quite fittingly titled Finding Percy Erebus — we join her on her quest to find her friend and are invited to travel through mystical places and obscure scenarios.
As part of the Dazed New World Festival, Elephant Talk Theatre are creating a mysterious world full of bizarre creatures (or people?) and manage to take us into their own little world. Cleverly, we are invited to accompany Phoebe on her journey through the unknown as we meet pirates, doctors, crossword-fanatics and sea creatures. Only equipped with a curiously heavy suitcase and a walkie-talkie, Phoebe is trying everything she can to locate her friend Percy. As a part of the audience, we get to see this magical world through the eyes of the child and experience their curiosity and what it is like when everything is new and unfamiliar.
The show delivers everything — from exhilarating sword fights to stunning underwater worlds and a wonderfully catchy song sung by not so trustworthy-looking GP. But, as enjoyable as the scenes are, that Phoebe gets to witness on her search for Percy, they also take away from the connection I would love to have with our protagonist. I am too taken in by the Wonderland-esque spectacle to get invested in Phoebe’s quest and root for her as she is going through quite a sad story of loss and grief.
The performance is captured like a live theatre performance — the piece is performed across the whole stage and it almost feels as if we are actually sitting in the auditorium witnessing the magic unfold. Almost, if the camera angle wasn’t changing and constantly uncovering quirky moments in the play. It feels like a doll’s house — you never know what to expect when the lights change, and the performers enter the stage in a different costume. Will it be cabaret, pantomime, puppetry, shadow-play or sphinx-like riddles delivered by the talented cast of Elephant Talk Theatre: Amelia Mehra, Helen Cox and Susannah MacDonald?
Finding Percy Erebus is a beautiful fairytale that allows us to engage with our imagination and dive into the magical worlds that we love so much when we are children. It is a wonderful chance to bring serious topics such as loss and pain closer to children all while leaving room for interpretation and our own imagination to flourish. The show is visually stunning and as imaginative as theatre can be.
Finding Percy Erebus is playing as part of the Dazed New World Festival until 24 October. For more information and tickets visit Applecart Arts online.