We tend to forget, living in our cosy homes in the UK, that there is a wider world beyond our waters. The world is an expanse of land and sea inhabited by seven billion humans, living their lives in their countries, in their cultures and spheres of life. There are effectively seven billion stories, as each person has their own unique tale about life where they are in a given moment. What I Heard About The World, a collaboration between Third Angel, mala voadora and Sheffield Theatres, explores some of the stories from across the globe and places them into a piece of awkward, yet oddly fulfilling theatre.
What I Heard About The World features Alexander Kelly, Chris Thorpe and Jorge Andrade bringing stories from across the world into the intimate space of the Upstairs Theatre at Soho Theatre. Flowing from true life stories of terrorists who hijacked a plane thinking they could fly to Australia, to the strange and comical telephone service that allows you to repent your sins with a telephone-confession. These oddly mystifying stories pepper What I Heard About The World giving a sense of charm and amusement at how different people from across the world interpret the world around them.
At times laugh out loud, and at others an inward sigh, Kelly, Thorpe and Andrade lead the audience on an unexpected journey of stories that skip and soar through our imaginations. Often the sensation is like being brushed up against by an unknown substance or force, entirely otherworldly whilst still retaining a sense of understanding.
Whilst the sensation of going on a journey through stories might appeal to an audience of theatregoers, there is a sense that What I Heard About The World is a little too abstract and fragmented to hold a coherent narrative. The individual stories and moments are enlightening, and often surprising, yet the transformation from moment to moment seems entirely forced, this being because the very nature of theatre asks for some sense of framework to be able to leap from one story to another. The fluidity of these moments, for me at least, did not work, which is a shame given that there is a general curiosity towards some of the stories portrayed.
The collaboration between Kelly, Thorpe and Andrade has clearly been a fruitful one, but I’d be inclined to suggest that an external eye in the form of a dramaturg is needed to ensure that the piece runs at an effective pace and fluidity. The material gathered through the trio’s research is fascinating and continually enlighting, but I wonder if there isn’t a better way of presenting them. Whilst there are these niggling doubts that set the performance back slightly, what it does offer is a brilliant example of making you realise how utterly bemusing other people and their stories or outlooks on life can be. An enlightening if not completely rewarding show.