Brighton Fringe 2017
ËThe show follows the intergalactic journey of the unlikeliest of heroes, happy-go-lucky farmer Charlie Sprog. At a time where the ancient planet of Plutopia rules the galaxy, Charlie is dragged from his quiet home planet and given one very simple mission: SAVE THE UNIVERSE FROM TOTAL DESTRUCTION.
Accompanied by an inter-cosmic live score like no other, the Sleeping Trees invite you to join them on a journey into the deep and infinite unknown. So strap on your helmets, jump into your space suits, complete the necessary six years of training required by NASA to fly into space….
(And it’s part of a TRILOGY! – See Mafia and Western as well if you can!
I’ve seen Sleeping Trees before, a few times and I always look forward to it because I know I’m going to be rolling around laughing, amazed at their virtuoso physicality and ready to be entertained with puns that aren’t just delivered with panache, they’re signaled, spoken often with some kind of visual backup and then punched out – they’re the people who “punchlines” could have been named for.
As befits such a talented bunch they are in bigger venues now with bigger audiences. The Old Market had half floor / gently half raked seating for the back half of the auditorium and although there weren’t many spaces at all I wanted to say to people who sat at the back “Noooo, get in as close as you can!”. Because you really do want to see the expressions on their faces which are whole micro comedy shows in their own right.
There are only four of them one of whom is a musician but there was a cast of thousands (if you count all the robots) all played by the three actors with fast exact hilarious changes in posture, pose and voice. When the hi – tech prison window opens you know exactly that this is a high-tech prison window – you can hear it, you can see it, the soundtrack is completely right. When Charlie Sprog is on stage you know it’s him immediately, when he transmutes, as he does, into the arch villain or another character he IS that character immediately, and the same for all the others. Other characters were instantly recognisable with quirks of gesture and speech.
These seemingly effortless transformations are not just individual – Sleeping Trees make great use of living tableaux made with all three of their bodies vis the hi-tech prison. In one of the last parts they revisit with rapid-fire accuracy and skill a set of battle scenes, each perfectly recreated ready for the extra plot twist they are providing in each. It’s all very skilled stuff.
Their stage presence is live and vibrant at all times, but still they have a witty and coherent storyline that wraps itself up in the grand climax – the show could have just showcased their wit and prowess in a series of scenes, but they are storytellers as well, playing with all the sci-fi genres, playing with good verses evil.
They improvise magnificently: when in the course of a scene that I will not explain, the arch-Villain references Ryvita, entirely plausibly, but mentioning that it is new to him and as another cast member remarks, immediately, “It’s new to me too!” I loved the sense of thrill and invention that course through their stagecraft, the ad-libs to the enthusiastic audience, the occasional deliberate mis-directions to the musician. They’re very good at being able to step out of character with a meta-comment, then step back instantaneously into their character of the moment. The sheer pace is admirable in its own.
Is there anything critical to be said? Well maybe those right at the back would have missed out on the finer points of their exquisite characterisation – this could be lost in larger venues. They made a good decision to use radio mics throughout and for the most part their speech was crystal clear, though occasionally the house PA muffled things a bit for me. But overall it was a magnificently funny performance that the audience loved – they are the epitome of physical theatre – they have no props other than their space style costumes. They created a whole space odyssey for us, ricocheting and morphing from one scene to another, one character to another, carrying the audience with them at all times at a rollicking pace. Outstanding stuff!