Prague Fringe 2014
Letters from Another Island will make your senses come alive as you take apart the elements of sound and vision by getting to walk around the room, and put them back together again. Almost Human invites audiences to get behind the film-making and story-telling process, providing showgoers a peak into what goes on off-stage, behind the microphone, and behind the camera, all the while gathering all these elements into a whole, the final film experience projected on-screen.
Letters from Another Island is an experience that invites audiences to get up close to the film-making process, by establishing a space that allows viewers to walk around, see how the cameras are arranged, and view the sound equipment being used as if we were all inside one big studio creating a movie. With a giant green-screen for the actors, and a dolly positioned to capture a tiny hand-made set, stories of six young people unfold, letting us in on their thoughts, their aches, and desires.
The focal point becomes the projected image on the wall, bringing together all elements that the theatergoers can see from the entire room. It collapses not only the actors traipsing about on the green screen and the mini set that another camera pans across, but also the entire sound stage with its tables of equipment. Through the hour, we meet several characters, lost in their own separate worlds, each clearly defined by their backdrops. What runs through cohesively amongst all the characters is this sense of longing, of wanting to find something, of wanting to connect to someone, or break out of their realities.
The narrative could be stronger and bring together the characters as the event winds down, but this is not much of a minus, as the out-of-the-box experience Almost Human provides is more than enough at the moment – just getting to witness an entire picture being made from so many elements you can see at hand is a story unto itself.
When the viewers are invited to “walk around the room” at the top of the show, it becomes a terrific set-up to establish all the separate elements that the company will bring together as the story unfolds. There are no chairs, and eventually, audience members find that they can lean against a wall, or sit in the middle of the room.
The projected screen became the heart of the space. Even the actors, who would listen for their cues in the text, would also check the wall on occasion to make sure that they belonged to the right image. This can be enjoyable to watch, but there can be room for more precision for actors to fall specifically onto their assigned images without “falling off” the screen. Some details to facial expressions were lost due to lighting that was too bright. I would have loved to see on screen some of the antics they were making the way I saw it onstage, so lighting can be adjusted to further serve the actor and the final picture everyone sees.
There is something precious about this piece. I find that combining theater and film elements brings about a refreshing, avant-garde flavor to the entire scene, allowing theater as a base for young artists to explore the use of film technology to create something unexpected.
This show struck me as inventive and rejuvenating, a perfect addition to its time. A must-see!