Created and Performed by Hugh Hughes and Sioned Rowlands
A Hoipolloi production at the PuSh Festival
Arts Club Theatre Revue Stage
January 20 to Feb 5, 2011
Vancouver, BC: I would have loved to be a fly on the wall when Shôn Dale-Jones first "met" emerging Welsh artist Hugh Hughes. Quick witted, charming, engaging storyteller - the dialogue must have been scintillating. But since it would have been more telepathic than aural, probably even the fly could not have tuned in to witness the birth of their first show, Floating.
Anyway it is the amiable Hugh Hughes, Dale-Jones' alter ego, who comes forward to greet the audience and introduce his grandmother, played by the winsome Sioned Rowlands. Rowlands also appears as other characters, such as the crusty Mr. Morgan, and Hugh's friend.
Hugh is here to tell us the tale of the strange day in 1982 when the Menai suspension bridge that connects the Isle of Anglesey to the Welsh mainland collapses, and Anglesey floats off into the ocean as far as the Arctic Circle, only to be returned by ocean currents to its starting point.
I was sort of expecting a sweet, magical fairy tale about a floating island but as it emerged, much of the 90 minute, no intermission show consists of Hughes and Rowlands, drawing the audience in as participants, rather than as voyeurs. Hughes points out that there are "them" - the people outside the walls of the theatre, and then there are "us", those that at this point in time have come together to heat his story. And in fact for almost 40 minutes, as Rowlands scurries around operating equipment, distributing magazines and other items for the audience to pass around, Hughes keeps the audience laughing as he riffs on a range of subjects including the etiquette of arriving late for a performance.
And that intrigued me. Shortly after the performance began, three people entered the theatre. Hughes paused, waiting for them to be seated, and then engaged in a dialogue with them about arriving late and the need to apologize. Like everyone else I found this impromptu chatter amusing and admired his improvizational skills. But then midway through the piece, several people got up ostensibly to leave for a "bathroom break". More repartee from the stage.
I heard the person next to me mutter something like " I can't believe the rudeness of these people." And then I figured they must be all audience "plants" because who walks in late to a performance, or leaves in the middle of a show, especially in an intimate space like the Revue Stage?
Actually I find the question of audience plants interesting - at conferences, magic shows (see Sensation of Magic) and improv shows - I often wonder about audience participants. For example the Sensation of Magic show was so mind-blowing that a reader commented that there had to be plants. I did not think so.
I'd like to hear your thoughts. Post your views in the comment section below or check out the ReviewFromTheHouse discussion page and engage in a conversation.
Eventually as Hughes and Rowlands shake and rattle props to simulate the earthquake, the Menai bridge collapses and Anglesey floats off into a turbulence of projected oceans. Hughes can survive at sea. He has an orange harness - that's not the colour but the fruit, in case he gets hungry!
Finally the play winds down and Hughes riffs some more about how audiences know that something has actually ended. Folks file out laughing. I leave thinking about Brecht, fourth walls, improvisation and fringe festivals. Outside my friends and I debate about the latecomers and the bathroom-goers. Plants or not? I still don't know. But I would like to find out.
Regardless, the audience loved the show. About a third actually gave Hughes and Rowlands a standing ovation. I found it lively, clever in the use of technology and props, and great at audience engagement but I really had expected to hear more of a fanciful tale of a floating island and its inhabitants.
Floating plays till Feb 5th. For tickets call the Arts Club at 604-687-1644 or book online