As part of the Transform season (running from the 6th- 18th June) Leeds based theatre company Imitating the Dog and Pete Brooks bring 6 Degrees Below the Horizon to the West Yorkshire Playhouse.
The play is a visually captivating and macabre tale based on the life of a deserting sailor. The plot sees pimps, prostitution, murder and love – all seen through the windows of a dying man’s mind.
The format of the play is unlike anything I have seen before; a mixture of cinema and theatre, the audience is treated to a screen projection of an old man telling his tale on his deathbed. The screen then parts in varied sections to reveal the actors behind, with continually changing videos alongside, creating novel videography and punchy visual metaphors; my particular favourite when, during a dramatic fight scene, the screen is unexpectedly changed as if splattered with blood. This aesthetic indulgence is punctuated with an original soundtrack that carries the play from impressive to truly affecting.
6 Degrees Below is unsure of its identify – part film noir, part vaudeville and part war drama pinpointing a time frame is nigh on impossible, though this just adds to its mystique. It is split between French subtitles and actors speaking in strong French accents – neither had a grave negative impact, though I did miss crucial aspects of the plot because the actors’ accent was, at times, incredibly difficult to understand. However, this distaction was negligable as 6 Degrees Below is more about palpable theatrics than dialogue.
Overall, 6 Degrees Below is the best I have seen of its kind. Simon Wainwright and Laura Hopkins do a virtuosic job of creating the videos which merge perfectly with the onstage performances and design. The plot is intriguing and gritty and the whole experience is a masterful and delectable fusion of theatre and cinema.