It’s always a nervy thing, going to your first show of the festival. A snoozefest might set your whole festival spiralling down into the depths, but a good work can give you that kick to go out, even when you’re too tired, too hungry or – let’s be honest here – too lazy to want to get out there and track down your next venue.
It was with some trepidation, then, that I kicked my festival off with Door. I was expecting good things – after all, UBom! and Baba Yaga theatre company have built up impressive reputations at Grahamstown. Their works consistently push physical theatre boundaries and have been equally consistent in delighting festivalgoers. Door marks a collaboration between the two companies and, I’m delighted to say, it has for the most part succeeded in marrying the strengths of both (arguably UBom!’s energetic, expressive range and Baba Yaga’s inventive visuals).
Door is billed as being “a truly thrilling collaboration…a living tableaux, a labrynth of strange events and characters.” Forget that. Go in there with a blank headspace and be prepared to have it filled with swirling scenes, chattering bodies and transformed objects. Be open to creative space. Watch as objects come alive under the sheer force if the company’s vision. Be astounded at the beauty of the everyday thing, fall in love with the exquisite, adaptable set.
Doors to me evoke spaces of liminality, a physical boundary of ‘in-betweenness’ of spaces between identities and decisions. The cast’s use of curiosity, exploration and play create a magical space for these themes to be explored at a highly allusive, irrational level.
With that being said, relax about narrative. No, really, chill out. It’s not going to be linear. It’s not going to ‘make sense’ straight away. To really get the most out of this production, I think you have to go into it ready to play. Trust the performers. Let them take you on a journey. Let them show you images that hit that back part of the brain where logic doesn’t reside (but the lyrics of every radio hit you listened to when you were at University somehow do). Watching Door was rather like gazing at those swirling eye illusion pages you used to get in magazines: everything looks mixed up for a while, but after a while, your synapses fire away and start to make small, yet rewarding connections. Threads begin to form. Before you know it, a whole story is spinning itself out before you. You just have to trust the unfolding.
Technically, the cast gave a strong ensemble performance, with some magnificent cameos given in small gestures like a captivating smile, an exasperated click of the tongue, a look of longing. I felt the second half of the show unwound somewhat – what was a tightly constructive experience began to give way to a series of moments that felt to me as if they had been afterthoughts or additions designed to showcase the cast’s range and technical skills rather than enhance the thematic content or narrative elements.These minor gripes aside, I would heartily recommend this production to anyone who enjoys physical theatre, or who is in the mood for something a little different.
So don’t panic. Don’t cling to words and rational meaning. Just…experience. Open doors in your mind and let the magic in. — Carla Lever