Frantic Assembly's remit is to produce intelligent work which engages, excites and energises audiences with a style firmly rooted in contemporary culture. Hymns has been revived - or should I say, re-energised - to celebrate ten years of this innovative and exciting theatre company.
Four men reunite to mourn the loss of a close friend. Things have moved on and this once close-knit group of pals have drifted slightly. Beneath their macho exterior lies vulnerability. Copious amounts of alcohol and soul searching mean that the truth will out.
Unlike many dance-led pieces, this stunning production has fully rounded characters who do so much more than simply move. Chris O'Connell's raw, bittersweet writing enables the audience to feel their pain. Liam Steele adds backbone to the piece via some absolutely breathtaking choreography and frenetically paced direction.
Steven Hoggett's Scott is frightened about how his friends might react to him as he’s been away so long. His is an authoritative performance subtly rendered. Eddie Kay's Steven is second in command, and again this actor can move like the wind and portrays bottled emotion in spades. Karl Sullivan literally scales the heights as namesake Karl, particularly in his heartbreaking final scene. Finally, Joseph Traynor imbues Simon with a naive sense of optimism which makes his energetic movements even more thrilling. Altogether, the synchronicity that these four display makes your jaw drop.
Natasha Chiver's evocative lighting exposes the quartet of characters’ flaws and 'little boy lost' qualities as each bares his soul on a drunken night out. The haunting soundtrack – care of Hoggett, Steel and DJ Andy Cleeton – also moves the audience, while complementing the exhilarating movement and superb emotive turns.
As each performer climbs the ladders that surround the stage, you’re taken on a journey exploring grief, guilt and the true meaning of the word, 'friend'. I, along with others in the audience on the night I attended, laughed, cried and gasped in equal measure. If this is the last piece of theatre I ever see, then I am a very lucky man. No amount of superlatives can do it justice. Still, I'll have a go: Hymns is the most original piece I have ever experienced. Put simply, it's pure theatrical bliss.
- Glenn Meads