Rating: * * * *
There was no way of knowing what to expect when entering the Barron Theatre for Underroads; described by its creators as ‘half dark comedy and half surrealist horror’, it did not disappoint on either account. Written by St Andrews students Miriam Rune, Elizabeth Milne and Ben Cook, Underroads immerses from the very beginning. The audience are ushered into the theatre personally and sit amongst umbrellas and signs which all allude to the world the cast create.
The opening image was of two characters circling each other with a panel creating a two-way mirror effect; it was captivating from the very beginning. Striking imagery is a strong theme throughout, with the pool of water providing a lovely focus point. The way in which characters moved across the stage was always inventive, with one character being dragged through the pool of water, and another locked inside a wicker basket before being carried off stage. Always stunningly visual, the haphazard costumes added to the creation of a surreal world. A jarring soundtrack beautifully accompanied the piece, with lamplight providing a soft focus for the more gentle scenes.
Although Underroads did not have a strong plot, the relationships between the characters were always delicately portrayed; from Paul Obi’s melancholy mopping of the stage to the bizarre and touching relationship between Victor Cova and Cameron Kirby’s characters. Lewis Harding and Elena Georgalla played the frustration of characters trapped in a world out of their control with perfect ease, and Suzanne Rooney and Lenore Bell created enchanting furies.
The professor – played strongly by Benjamin Wallo – involved the audience by asking them about the nature of hope, and some of the audience members were asked to move seats and be vetted by the officials of the world. Whilst all the audience interaction worked very well, my one criticism was that as someone who was asked to accompany the first character out of the theatre – and down the road to the pub, where everyone reconvened to discuss the world they had just left – I missed what sounded like a wonderful ending.
Underroads was a delightful experience, and I found myself grinning most of the way through. Brian Sonia-Wallace headed the collaborative piece as a research project into sustainable development and once again has created an engaging and thought-provoking piece of theatre.
Image: Brian Sonia-Wallace