‘Drifters’ – Strange Arrangements
It’s a rare occasion that I find theatre without narrative enjoyable, instead of just being another evening of self-indulgent, inaccessible, relatively expensive (when you factor in travel, dinner, interval drinks...) twaddle. Fortunately, the latest work by Strange Arrangements is a glorious exception. ‘Drifters’ is sensually invigorating, wordless entertainment, lasting a good seventy minutes. Good, of course, being the operative word here – that’s a long time to sit still and be entertained without dialogue.
Shown as part of the FIRSTS Festival of exclusively new work at the Little Angel Theatre, ‘Drifters’ is an experimental daydream that segues seamlessly between each ten-minute sequence. Without a single word, the piece communicates ideas about travel, companionship and loss. Admittedly, the facial expressions do a lot of the talking – the actors give a lot of face for such a small stage.
'Drifters' is interdisciplinary theatre at its best. It is as much contemporary dance, mime and symphony as it is puppet theatre. It’s also a reminder of why good lighting designers are worth paying for. Sebastiane Brewer ambitiously overcomes the limited space with a beautiful variety of lighting states. And at no point throughout the performance's development has anyone said “no, we can’t inflate a bin bag as big as the stage with a desk fan and pluck multicoloured jellyfish out of it, it’s too ambitious”. Everything here – from the huge brown paper bag sails to the full body puppets – is ambitious.
The puppets are particularly enthralling, expertly animated by three performers: Ivan Hall, Hannah Timms and director-designer Nigel Luck. They devote their focus to their puppets, and they themselves move with confidence and dancers’ ability. Puppet maker Sue Dacre has magnificently created a skeletal puppet with interchangeable heads for this performance. The creature is sad, hilarious and pant-wettingly terrifying.
‘Drifters’ leaves the theatre with you. It supports you as you float down the street on an air-filled rubbish bag, which looks so much like the sea you want to jump in. Do it, jump in, see the show. Strange Arrangements is far and away one of the best companies you will see this year.
Little Angel Theatre