Tomorrow Creeps is GOLEM! Theatre’s third production, following on from Macbeths and I Know You Of Old. This time they’re playing the Cavern space at the VAULT Festival for a very limited run – you might remember that I previewed the show back in December (and also featured the company in a piece about innovation within Shakespeare productions).
On this outing writer (& company co-founder) David Fairs has his own story to tell, and he has drawn his words from 16 Shakespeare works (including the sonnets) as well as a sprinkling of Kate Bush magic. The Fallen Tyrant languishes in his cell following his wife’s death, grown used to being treated with suspicion & contempt, drifting in & out of madness. The Hollow Hero also finds himself alone, desperate to find his daughter; he reluctantly turns to the former king for help. But as the Spectral Queen’s influence gets stronger, will this turn out to be a catastrophic mistake?
It’s one thing to devise a story and write a play from it, quite another to be able to draw on the complete works of Shakespeare and find exactly what you need in about half of all available source material. Not to mention pulling in Kate Bush, including some lyrics as well as being inspired by her own storytelling ability. Fairs brings everything together to make the theatrical equivalent of a found poem with a twist, taking in a whole range of creative inspirations and translating that into a sinister, mysterious play. With such a range of Shakespeare in use, it is very satisfying when you recognise a particular play or sonnet (I think I managed to spot 11 plays & one sonnet), but it doesn’t affect your overall experience of the piece – it’s neither distracting to notice something, nor does it feel in any way contrived. Everything feels incredibly natural, flowing together with ease and every little bit is there for a reason. I should also note that it doesn’t matter at all if you don’t know any Shakespeare (or indeed, Kate Bush), which is part of the beauty of GOLEM! Theatre’s approach.
Odinn Hilmarsson’s sound design immerses you in the world of Tomorrow Creeps, with an eerie dripping noise forever in the background and enveloping the audience with Kate Bush when the time comes – so much so that you almost feel it reverberate through you. The trains overhead also create an intermittent pulse that adds to the atmosphere.
It is performed in the traverse, using nearly the entire length of the Cavern over the course of the play, though concentrating the action mostly in the middle of the space. Director Anna Marsland has done well to try and keep the actors as visible as possible, though not sacrificing storytelling at the same time. The only little issue is that when two or three of the cast have different lines to speak over one another you do tend to lose all of the speech – depending on where and how they are positioned (and if there’s any music also playing). Though on the whole, everyone is audible and you can often pick out one person’s lines when they’re all talking at once – and, importantly, you still get a sense of what’s going on at the time. Be warned, it’s not necessarily the most comfortable hour you’ll spend in a theatre (crammed three to a damp bench, but ultimately it is worth it.
Conor O’Kane is a visibly tortured Hollow Hero, with desperation in his eyes and an initial repulsion at having to even talk to the former king, let alone be brought so low as to ask for his help. As the Spectral Queen, Zena Carswell stalks her still-living husband and responds to a malevolent influence also in the room. Opposite her is David Fairs, bringing the Fallen Tyrant to twisted life, still able to interact with his wife despite her tragic death. All three have tremendous physicality, and really seem to live the events of the play as they unfold in front of you.
My verdict? A dark and twisted Lynchian play, bringing you Shakespeare & Kate Bush as you’ve never seen them before – all the world really is a stage.
Tomorrow Creeps runs at the VAULT Festival until 28 January 2018. Tickets are available online or from the box office.