(Image courtesy of Kati Brunk)
Dir. Paul Brotherston, Tron Theatre, 20th – 22nd April
Near the end of the experimental performance based on Jules Verne’s Journey to the Centre of the Earth, by the University of the West of Scotland, one of the actors blames the budget for not actually having a T-Rex on stage. To me this was an amusing comment, as the extraordinary number of props give the impression of a limitless budget. With ladders, globes, ice picks, deckchairs, measuring tape, bottles of gin, boxes of fish and even a shelf from a bookcase, no other set is needed to depict the world of 1863 Germany and Iceland.
An ensemble cast takes us on a whirlwind journey from Hamburg to Snæfell in Iceland and down a volcano. We join mad (and mean) scientist Otto, being played by four actors and his nephew, main character and narrator Axel on their adventure. The coherent unity the cast forms is impressive, with everyone complementing each other and together creating a fast-paced play by their actions and reactions.
On top of that, they operate the smoke-machine and produce sound effects and music on stage, visible for everyone. Even the casting of Hans, the Icelander joining Otto and Axel down the volcano, is done in front of the audience.
Often, in the middle of a scene, one of the ensemble clicks their fingers and sighs: “The next bit of the book is a bit shite, we’ll skip that.” While this self-referencing is often funny and well done, it creates the complex situation where one half of the performance is asking you to engage and go along with the quite impossible action of travelling to the centre of the earth, while the other half of the performance is taking the piss of this. Unfortunately, the jokes playing on unimaginative stereotypes or those that only seem to be funny if you know the actors fall completely flat for me. Yet besides these small points of critique, Journey to the Centre of the Earth is an inspiring, entertaining performance.