“the whole piece is a show of inspiring collective effort”
Three panels hang above the stage projecting footage of the earth. Beneath them facts about the rainforest and overpopulation arrive on the back wall in orange and then disappear. One by one people begin to sing of “The Earth and I” as the stage brightens. Then it is all change. The warm reds and long notes transform into a blue stage which people speed across, an indication of the pace of the modern world. Bodies are packed together, moving herd-like.
This is the impactful opening of ‘Globaleyes’, a contemporary physical theatre work tackling the vast subject of globalisation. Across the course of the performance the dances focus on climate change, poverty, displacement, war and slave labour – hardly a small task. The show originated in 2002, and this recording, which Chickenshed are streaming in response to the impact of Covid-19 on theatres, is of the 2013 production. It features Chickenshed’s company members, 200 Chickenshed students and members of their adult theatre group in a refreshingly diverse ensemble of performers.
Globaleyes features a range of performance styles, some closer to dance, others more in the realm of physical theatre, some solo performances, some unison ensembles. This variety of styles, as directed by Christine Niering with Jonathan Morton and Louise Perry, shaped and defined each of the different themes. In a particularly strong number, two sets of two performers are tied together, turning each duet into many-limbed single beings which create spider-like shapes across the stage.
Changes in light and sound also dictated each new phase of the piece. Branches projected across hanging fabric (set construction by John Mann) are accompanied by incredibly tranquil music. Performers are turned into a homogenous silhouette by light. Sometimes music is interrupted by audio snippets from news reports and politicians speaking, including notably a speech that was made at Martin Luther King’s funeral. The hanging screens display a range of footage, historical and custom-made, to highlight the themes of each number. Both light design, sound design and music are vital to this piece, and Andrew Caddies (lighting design), Phil Haines (sound design) and Dave Carey (Musical Director) do a fantastic job of creating each new atmosphere.
Some of the scenes offer more impact and more clarity than others. Certain sections feel overly long without delving as deep as they could into the topic they are tackling. The challenges of creating a piece that has such a broad focus is apparent at times.
But from the creative team to the performers onstage, the whole piece is a show of inspiring collective effort. Watching this seven years on from when it was filmed, the continued resonance of the themes is clearly evident. The final message of Globaleyes is one of hope in the possibility of change and the power of community.
“a unique experience of entertainment, enlightenment and warmth”
Another year and another Chickenshed Christmas extravaganza! This time, we are thrown into the 1960s; society is tossing aside its coat of conformity, young people are asserting their individuality and music and fashion are colourful, vibrant and defiant. Snow White resents her shallow, affluent life in the Regent’s Park mansion, and the elite parties thrown by her stepmother. A ‘has been’ fashion model, Jane de Villiers is jealous of her for having the looks she, herself, has lost and for the love her banker husband shows for his daughter. To remain ‘the fairest of them all’, she instructs her security guard to kill Snow White. Of course (as we all know the plot) he doesn’t; she flees to the Scottish Highlands where she meets the Magnificent Seven, a commune of outsiders who feel they don’t belong but have found love, friendship and happiness together.
Within the structure of the narrative, writer and director, Lou Stein, with a small student collective, develops 60s themes, shapes strong principal roles and form teams and clans to enable a huge cast to participate, benefit and enjoy. And whether it is the youngest ‘Sixties Swinger’, the smallest ‘Mirror’ or the oldest Sprite’, they do this with intoxicating energy, enthusiasm and commitment. Cara McInanny is a wonderfully down to earth and sympathetic Snow White, her narcissistic stepmother is played with frighteningly malignant nerve by Sarah Connolly and, as the down-trodden husband, Jonny Morton gives a remarkably strong performance. All three sing beautifully with confidence and ease. Nathaniel Leigertwood plays Jason the security guard, with just the right ingenuousness and as Bobby The Buster, Will Laurence leads his mobsters into trouble with great aplomb. A mirror with charisma, Ashley Driver also integrates the signing into the show, along with two of the ‘Seven’, Sarah Jones and Bethany Hamlin, drawing the whole audience into the action. Dave Carey’s varied musical numbers spread across the many genres of that time. Not only reminiscent of the Beatles he also gives us a taste of Pink Floyd, reggae and ‘Hair’, the musical.
The set, by William Fricker, incorporates artistic designs of the decade with the looking-glass motif in a stunning combination of simplicity and practicality – monochrome, geometric patterns and circles and a wall of assorted mirrors which double up as screens for projections of 60s London life. Fricker’s costumes touch on the various styles of the era (including the Dr. Seuss-esque Psychedelic Sprites), devises dazzling mirrors and cleverly keeps Snow White’s colour scheme to the popular blue, yellow and red. The lighting by Andrew Caddies gives an additional layer of richness to the visual brilliance of the production.
There may be some magic formula to juggling the logistics of putting on a show with four casts of 200 but I imagine it comes down to dedication, experience and a lot of hard work. One could perhaps point out the somewhat accelerated ending, that the band occasionally drowns the singing or question where the Psychedelic Sprites really fit into the tale, but it hardly seems relevant. ‘Snow White’ gives everyone the chance to feel part of something while expressing their own potential. For the audience, it is a unique experience of entertainment, enlightenment and warmth.