Devised by the company; written by John Nicholson (Peepolykus)
Big State Theatre
York Theatre Royal Studio
I have never enjoyed a production so much which, for the first ten minutes, I thought I was going to absolutely hate.
Big State Theatre incorporate their trademark of blending film and theatre by beginning with a comic set of trailers for films, including 'Beastosaurus' and 'Highway 47'. The company of four take on every role imaginable and adventure into the world of celluloid, brilliantly exploring and exposing the tricks of the silver screen with such things as their mock kung-fu flying fighting and dinosaur battles.
When the 'feature film' begins four diligent field hospital operatives burst out of the back of a Landover and set to work stitching up the war. When they suddenly find that the war has inexplicably lost them, they elect Shaun Mitchell (Paul Mundell) as their leader and duly pack up tent and set off in search of the action. Unquestioningly following Mitchell's hesitant leadership are the cheerful and enthusiastic Block, Bridgett and Fletcher, who will quite happily repeat a conversation four times for the sake of morale.
The confused Mitchell is less reconciled with their situation and the company collectively take one step further into the surreal as they comfort Mundell's character on his lack of back story. Mitchell's troubles only worsen when he finds that everyone is noticing his height problems and so follows some fantastic visual gags with a succession of ever decreasing tents. Finding themselves at the edge of their blank map, Mitchell steps over the edge alone and, not knowing his own story, adventures his way through a succession of the stories we were introduced to in the satirical trailers.
The sense of fun and fantastic comic judgement by all four actors is impeccable and Big State's work with Youth Theatre is evident in their clear and effective dialogue. As Block (Ashley Christmas) helpfully tells her lost leader, "If you see things you remember them, but if you do things you understand them." Each actor contributes their own style while working together as a well-oiled, quizzical comedy making machine. What makes them so applaudable is how near to the edge of farce they take themselves and yet manage never to step over the line. They have no need to explain nor lampoon their hallucinatory script and it only works to the better.
What Big State undoubtedly do so well is weaving the pieces of film into Fallen Angles, seamlessly working theatre into film and film into theatre. With such intriguing characters and such clever visual chemistry, every sequence is welcomed on to the stage with eager anticipation of what this inventive company are going to do next. Charlie Camm's fantastic set frames and functions in this absurd world to excellent effect, with collapsible tents and lonely doors always introducing the next step.
Finding a production that began, as my friend commented, as "what MASH would have been like if the Chuckle Brothers had been available" and turns out to be an absolute gem of a theatrical night out is an incomparable pleasure. When this subtle, surreal and stupendous show comes to an end you will wish it was only the interval and leave with your mind literally boggling with delight.
The tour is now finished
Reviewer: Cecily Boys