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Elsewhere (York Theatre Royal)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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'Empowering' is the best word to describe Elsewhere, performed jointly by Belt Up Theatre and the York Theatre Royal Young Actors Company (aged 18-25) as part of the Takeover Festival.

Rather than sitting politely in a darkened auditorium, waiting to be entertained, we as audience are invited to ‘take over’ York City Library after dark, becoming an essential part of the action. This site-specific, immersive performance presents us with a clear mission from the outset and, once let loose to roam at will throughout the building, we encounter and interact with a range of engaging characters, who are strangely endearing but also (seriously!) flawed. From the egocentric, would-be celebrity to the painfully shy performance poet, and from the weeping pregnant girl to the student backpacker, together with the ‘library staff’, the characters tell us their story, all with a sense that the person whom they love is ‘elsewhere’.

The acting is superbly intimate and Julian Oilive and Alexander Wright lead a brilliantly focused ensemble cast, who embrace the unexpected with great professionalism and impressive energy. Both comic and deeply moving, this interactive piece demands something back from its audience members, and our contribution is rewarded by the exhilarating chance to break through the fourth wall and create a drama that is unique to ourselves, changing the characters, scene and even the content at whim.

Highly in tune with current events, Elsewhere is an inspiring piece of theatre, with a deeply serious message at its heart. I left the library feeling empowered, more focused on my principles, and with a sense that I could really make a difference, beyond the confines of the performance.

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