WhatsOnStage Logo

Above Me The Wide Blue Sky

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
WhatsOnStage logo

It really says something about a play when, of two characters - a woman who talks a lot and a skinny dog who sleeps a lot - we identify more readily with the dog. What it says, I'm not quite sure. But I'm not convinced it's great.

Above Me The Wide Blue Sky, created by Fevered Sleep in a co-production with the Young Vic, is an art installation as much as it is a piece of theatre. It's a one-woman play, performed in the round, with big projections of clouds, ethereal music and lots of lights at varying heights surrounding the performer. The audience is encouraged to arrive early to see the installation, but that won't take you more than five minutes.

The performance involves a woman (Laura Cubitt) spinning in her chair and addressing individual audience members. As the projections dim and brighten, and the music changes, she recalls fond memories of landscapes close to home. "The sweet, steamy breath of a cow," she pointedly announces, before moving onto "a mouse caught by its nose in a mouse trap, its back legs trying to push it through."

And so the play continues. Later, as her descriptions get longer, she stands and becomes slightly more animated. But then she sits down again, and repeats all of the phrases she already said, in less detail. "A woman talking to 15 chickens," for example, becomes, "Women talking to chickens."

It's meant to be a comment on her relationship with nature, I suppose. Or perhaps it's intended as a meditation on old age and an inevitable, unwilling loss of memory. But if it weren't for the performer's captivating look, plummy tone and my own uneasy feeling that she might fall off her chair at any given moment, I'm not sure I would have retained focus the whole way through. And for a 45-minute play, that's not saying a lot.

It's a shame, because the concept is interesting. But what should be emotive and otherworldly is let down by language that isn't evocative enough, an over-stylised set and unimaginative execution. It feels like watching something in between a rehearsal and a meditation, which is fine, but not really worth £10.

- Tabatha Leggett


Tagged in this Story