Edinburgh Fringe 2015
B isn’t sure who they are; no, that wasn’t a grammar faux pas. Rhum and Clay take you on a journey of one person, whose obsession with chess splits him into four separate entities. Through an abundance of physical storytelling and live percussion, we join B as he tries to piece together his memories.
After a last minute crowdfunding pull, Rhum and Clay secured their spot at the Underbelly’s Big Belly stage. If this young company were unable to perform, it would have been a crime. 64 Squares rolls out piece after piece of impeccable storytelling, through a series of physical sequencing and contemporary techniques, switching from humour to heartache in an instant. The performers are all on stage throughout the hour long, sold out performance, and although hot and packed in, the audience were gripped from the first word.
We meet the four B’s, all wearing light blue jackets with the letter monographed in gold, the only clue he has to remind him of his former self. The era of the late 1930s is established by the three actors (Julian Spooner, Matthew Wells, and Róisín O’Mahony) and a live musician side of stage (Fred McLaren), who is equally integral to the performance. The narrative melds seamlessly with B’s discovery of himself and of the people he has met in his travels, each performer jumping in and out of a variety of characters with surgical precision.
The musical accompaniments are never overbearing, and perfectly matched with the rise and fall of an intelligent and highly original script. The audience knows who everyone is at all times, despite 90% of the show being in a constant multi-rolled cycle, achieved through clear direction, fully embodied characterisation, and pristine physical vision.
The Big Belly stage is a large shoe to fill, and a challenge that this skilful ensemble whole-heartedly accomplish. The cast personify an array of delightful characters that fill the stage, with an unapologetic determination that has the audience eating out of their hands. The space was in a constant state of flux, transformed from the belly of a boat, into a high-rise office and a dank prison cell, to name but a few. Through slick and economic transitions, dreamlike images melt from scene to scene, further portraying the company’s unique physical motifs and never straying from the plot.
The set served as a Swiss Army knife of bits and pieces for the company to play with. Costumes and props appeared and disappeared again in seconds, the performers using makeshift objects to add to tech. Although ostensibly a low budget solution, by playing with shadow and torch light, the organic, live aspects of the show not only kept you aware of the capability of the performers, but also immersed you further into the concept of being inside a man’s head; each memory was literally created, without depending on technical aspects which can easily remove audiences from a carefully crafted fictional world.
The quirky reality achieved by this stand out performance somehow successfully generates a warm familiarity alongside out of the ordinary concepts. Nothing was superfluous, every gesture, sound, and word contributing to our overall understanding with irresistible effect. With this winning combination of engaging historic memoirs and inventive contemporary movement, Rhum and Clay are fast becoming one of the decade’s most fresh and exciting physical companies.