Above Me The Wide Blue Sky – Young Vic Theatre, London – review by Carole Woddis.

As technology draws us further and further away from experiencing life to merely recording it – mobile cameras ever at the ready – along comes this latest piece from the ever inventive children and adult theatre company, Fevered Sleep, to remind us of what we are perilously close to losing.  The ability to stand and stare, to observe and absorb, to meditate on our relationship with our environment.

Part installation, part solo performance, part tone poem, the Young Vic’s Maria studio has been turned into a 360 degree cyclorama of sky and cloud scape.

As you enter a bed of lights burn, flicker and die away.  In the background thunder rumbles.  All around clouds skud, build and disperse.  One moment blue, the next darkening into storm then dissipating into sunset.

A young woman in jeans enters leading a small, frightened looking whippet.  She tenderly caresses it until, reassured, it turns to a pre-prepared bed and sleeps.

The woman swivels on a chair and addresses us.  She starts with nouns – names of birds, a view seen in the landscape.  Gradually they extend into more complex imagery.  Sights, sounds, the colours of nature, animals caught in time, people caught in time merging into the landscape; a whole panoply of descriptions spread out before us, at any given moment taking us back, immersing us in our own memories of that view on the hill, the walk by the river, the sound of the sea…moments that have linked us to who we are, our sense of ourselves, identity.

She recalls her own childhood field, the place where she grew up and its associations.  And suddenly the descriptions become prefaced with, `there used to be…’.  The sense of loss and change, not necessarily for the better, is profound.

Programmes about Nature, the countryside, our environment and what is happening to it are now as ubiquitous in tv scheduling as reality and cooking shows.  They can also be cringingly sentimental and anthropomorphising.

By creating a kind of sonic and visual trance Above Me The Wide Blue Sky, drawn from hundreds of conversations with people round the country, nudges us into recognition of what these connections with Nature can mean.

As performed by Laura Cubitt in a feat of quietly magnificent memory, some may see it as yet another form of misplaced romanticism.  Personally I would have liked inner city beauties included or at least referred to.  Sunsets setting behind gasometers or abandoned factory chimneys can induce quite as sharp an intake of breath as at the coast.

All the same, I loved it for its limpid beauty, simplicity and warning contained in every line of its last 20 minutes.

Thoroughly recommended.  To March 28.

www.youngvic.org

Carole Woddis © March 14, 2013.