“Imagination is lacking with the staging as considering this is meant to be up a mountain, it all feels very flat”
White Fang, written and directed by Jethro Compton, is the story of Lizbet, a young Native American girl and her wolf. She is a cold and courageous hunter navigating her outcast place in a society set against her.
The ensemble cast are strong, however the play is predictable in narrative and dramatic clichés. The puppetry has potential but I fear I have been spoilt by seeing Gyre and Gimble’s wolf in The Grinning Man, which is designed and controlled with more characterisation. The stage is also too small for the puppet when accompanied by two puppeteers.
The fierce female friendship between Lizbet (Mariska Ariya) and Curly (Bebe Sanders) is mistaken for love in this story and the romantic elements of the characters’ relationship feel forced. Although they kiss, they do not ever embrace, even facing the threat of death. Sanders is talented but the character is given no back story at all, and the audience know nothing about her except her apparent fondness for Lizbet.
The text includes some witty lines – ‘Learn to drink; or learn to drink less’ and the show is accompanied by beautifully lyrical songs (Gavin Whitworth) with intricate harmonies (lovely bass from Paul Alberton). Lighting is nicely done (Julian McCready) and hints at the vast coldness of the Canadian wilderness. Some sound effects (Juan Coolio) are overly synthetic in the space, particularly the whistling wind and wolves howling off-stage.
The set of the cabin (Jethro Compton) is a stark and bare refuge from the cold that fits the purpose for the indoor action. However, it is so large that only a tiny portion of the stage is left in front for all the outdoor scenes. The noisy brown curtains do not do justice to the landscapes of the programme, and the lack of space and levels mean a huge amount of action (particularly on the floor) is completely lost on me, despite my best neck-craning. Imagination is lacking with the staging as considering this is meant to be up a mountain, it all feels very flat. Just a little height would go a long way.
I hope the company are given the means to expand the play to better portray its surroundings. It needs a stage triple the size and height, with snow and ice to really portray the ‘arctic black’. It would make a wonderful outdoor show, connecting us with the cruel winter it currently struggles to present on-stage. Snow was disappointingly absent, particularly as it is present through all the programme images.
White Fang has promise but the staging unfortunately lets it down.
“Sanders confidently drove the story, transitioning from being controlled and restrained into a delightful emotional mess”
I had come to see Pebbles, the new play from Lidless Theatre, under the pretence that I was in for a night of hard-hitting, sombre bleakness, as I knew the play focussed on the theme of loneliness. How wrong I could have been. I was delightfully surprised to find myself belly laughing out loud to this witty, heart-warming tale of friendship and the humorous idiosyncrasies that come from a life in isolation.
Written by company member Bebe Sanders, Pebbles tells the story of Jonie (played by Sanders herself) who was born with some mysterious illness that makes her dangerous, and life threatening to other human beings she has contact with. For her own, and humankind’s safety, Jonie is sent up into space to live in isolation on an uninhabited, pebble-strewn planet. After hundreds of days out in the cosmos, Jonie keeps a strict, regimented structure to her day, noting observations into her Dictaphone about the minute changes to her desolate environment. Seemingly content with this way of life, it is not until Jonie’s path is crossed with fellow quarantined earthling Bryon (Charlotte Beaumont) that things start to fall apart, forcing Jonie to confront some of the emotions and memories that she had kept buried for so long.
Sanders and Beaumont give very strong performances as conflicting characters – Bryon’s happy-go-lucky, eccentric airs infuriates uptight, forward-focused Jonie. An opposing duo on a quest is a familiar template we have seen before, whether it is Vladamir and Estragon in Waiting For Godot, to even Shrek and Donkey. However, Pebbles still came across fresh as this inter-galactic caper focussed on the interactions of two young women, very far away from home. Charlotte Beaumont as Bryon was hilariously brilliant, full of quirks and extraordinary one-liners, whilst Bebe Sanders confidently drove the story, transitioning from being controlled and restrained into a delightful emotional mess, figuring out the power and relief talking to another person can bring.
There may have not been anything that profound within the play, however there were certainly some thought-provoking comments, for example, when Bryon ruminates over the idea of how we could be holding the hand of someone we deeply love and still feel utterly lonely – a reaction many of us have come to feel at some point in our lives I am sure. Sanders depicts with precision the antics of the human condition, bringing to life universal feelings such as hope, fear, emptiness and comfort that we can all relate to. This is what made Pebbles such a strong piece.
As light and jovial as the production was (note: running at only an hour long, it did not have the time to dig too deep) I came out feeling heart-warmingly touched by Jonie and Bryon’s friendship, proving that even out in space you don’t have to feel alone.