By Debbie Cannon
This is an inventive, unusual, and charmingly entertaining show – as full of fancy as a play inspired by the work of Salvador Dalì should be.
Although it’s not about Dalì directly, the play offers a nice introduction to his art, and there are plenty of teasing nuggets of information which children can follow up if they want to. Really, though, this is all about the power of the imagination – and most of all about engaging the young audience which is its focus. The play has a very nicely crafted script, full of lovely lines. It centres on two strong and likeable characters in curmudgeonly Mr Salvi and his sprite-like companion Kush, who is desperate to persuade Salvi to re-open a mysterious box, in which he has stored his dreams.
Three of Salvi’s dreams do escape, and are played out for us by Salvi and three ‘dream figures’ (Katie Harrison, Laura Griffin, and Sophie Collerton) while Kush narrates the story behind each dream, and complementary music provides an auditory backdrop. Each dream describes the events occurring in a Salvador Dalì painting, and these are displayed at the back of the space. It’s a lovely, layered approach, which clearly captivated and intrigued the children in the audience. There are several opportunities for them to get involved, too – they’re invited to contribute their thoughts on dreams, for example, and assist Kush in badgering Salvi.
The physicality of the performance is another of its strengths. It’s used really effectively by Sarah Cotterill in her characterisation of lively Kush, whose dancing hands and feet continuously mime her words and reflect her emotions. Mungo Tatton-Brown, too, perfectly conveys the disgruntlement and stiffness of the elderly Salvi, his costume helping to create the impression of a man with limbs too long to be entirely comfortable. Both are impressively nuanced creations. The use of movement is especially vivid, however, in the company’s presentation of the dreams/paintings, and if their timing is occasionally slightly off, this is forgiven in the light of the creative and beautiful scenes they conjure up.
Full marks, too, for making what is potentially a restrictive space enhance their show so well, and embody both the real and magical worlds of the play. The Master’s Room at Hill Street Theatre is small, and with its tartan-clad walls and an antique fireplace it comes with a certain style and character of its own. The room transforms neatly into Salvi’s sitting room, but fairy-lights and star-catchers add a dream-like quality, which is enhanced by evocative music and lighting. A white sheet, used first by Salvi when he falls asleep, becomes a screen on which some magical, Dalì-esque shadow-puppetry is performed. In this set the ordinary can become the surreal at any second.
Audience space is limited, with two rows of chairs and cushions on the floor along one wall, but the action on stage is always clearly visible.
Packed with imagination, energy and humour, this is well worth seeing. The company are also offering dream inspiration and craft workshops after every show.