UP, UP, UP AND AWAY!
Zoom, My Place, Friday 26th June, 2020
During lockdown, we have not been starved of theatre, with plenty of National Theatre productions streaming for free on a weekly basis, and such. This online production by Super Stories With City Actors (presented by Creation Theatre) takes a savvier approach by charging for access to their live show, performed on Zoom right before your very eyes. But why pay when there is so much free stuff out there?
First up: it’s interactive. Rather than plonking the kids down in front of a screen, and providing a passive experience, this play invites and encourages participation from its remote and divided audience. In the safety of your own home, you can take part and do all the moves. Don’t worry, it’s nowhere near as arduous as a Joe Wicks workout.
Secondly, you get to influence the story. This fast-moving adventure, loosely based on a Hans Christian Anderson tale, involves Captain Calamity (Rowland Stirling) and his young cadet (Ryan Duncan) as they travel the world in a hot air balloon. In fact, we are all recruited as ‘cloud cadets’ to go along for the ride. And you get the chance to volunteer suggestions for magic spells and special salutes, and lots of things the plot requires. But only if you want to. No one is picked on. It’s all “Hand’s up if you’ve got an idea”, so you can be as shy as you want.
Ryan Duncan befriends us from the off, as the plucky Apprentice. He is our guide into the Captain’s crazy world. Duncan has the energy and heightened delivery of a kids’ TV presenter, without being annoying, and he is a splendid physical comedian.
The versatile Rowland Stirling is the embodiment of silliness as the camp Captain Calamity. He also appears as a slightly villainous magician, who speaks in rhyme and stands behind a moustache on a stick, and perhaps most delightfully, voices the leader of a flea circus, revelling in the name of Timoflea Charlemagne. Which gives you some idea of the humour we’re dealing with here in the script by George Rennie – who is also hard at work, video-mixing live, which is like stage managing, conducting, and scene shifting rolled into one.
The music, written and performed by Jessica Dives, adds to the action and the fun. There’s a home-made quality to the backgrounds, combining stock photographs with cut-outs, animation, and green-screen trickery. That you can see the join from time to time merely adds to the charm. The combination of high- and low-tech elements works like a dream. And it’s as funny as it is inventive.
The show embraces the medium to the hilt, presenting the story elements in creative ways, and it’s perfectly pitched at its target audience of youngsters. You can see the engagement on their little faces. And you can see the enjoyment of the mums/dads/court-appointed guardians on their larger faces, as they join in with the moves.
There’s a lot going on, and not just in the knockabout plot. It’s about sharing an imaginative experience, sharing ownership, taking part, and colluding with the artifice of it all to keep the balloon in the air. It’s uplifting stuff and worth every penny. People have got to get used to paying for theatre again.
Subsequent Zoom meetings I have to endure are never going to live up to this!
You can book your ticket to a performance HERE!