Blue at Lion & Unicorn Theatre
In recent years, mental health – especially in young people – has finally attracted the recognition and attention it requires. Countless plays have tackled the subject matter in various ways, from light-hearted approaches to grittier and darker productions. Blue certainly offers us an original take on the subject matter. There is not a single word spoken throughout the 60-minute run. Instead, we are presented with facial expressions, movement and gesture to communicate the story of our protagonist. Whilst mime is often associated with slapstick and over-exaggerated comedy, here it is used to express the confining symptoms of depression whilst conveying the fact that outward appearances are not necessarily representative of how we are feeling on the inside. It’s a creative risk that pays off thanks to the compelling performance by the show’s writer Kim Scopes.
Our character lives on the moon with only a lobster named Spock for company. Through the use of a voiceover in the style of pre-school television, we learn about this person’s hobbies – such as dancing, puppetry and playing catch. This is pretty much all we have in the way of plot. Structurally there is no clear beginning, middle and end here, but one could argue this is representative of the ambiguous, hazy and unpredictable nature of depression and the ramifications it can have on routine and a sense of order in one’s life. The climax of the performance shifts from its playful tone into a heart-wrenchingly raw final sequence with the use of placards combined with the silently emotive performance of Scopes transmitting the pain, loneliness and confusion associated with this illness.
The studio theatre above The Lion and Unicorn pub in Kentish town only heightens the immersive experience and invites us into our protagonist’s world. The audience participation facilitates this, with Scopes picking people at random to either play catch or even at one point instigating an improvised mimed scene. Ultimately this artistic decision succeeds in reinforcing the themes of the play and emphasising the isolation of its subject.
The set is simple but effective. Emily Keeble’s lighting design, with occasional blackouts prompting the use of a torch, contributes to the immersive atmosphere. Andrea Giordani’s puppetry direction also allows for a particularly poignant sequence. There is, however, little in the way of theatrics, with our attention prominently directed towards Stopes, who performs exquisitely. Displaying her desperate hunger for companionship whilst simultaneously conveying such vulnerability is no mean feat and it’s clear that both the actress and director Holli Dillon have invested their hearts and souls into this project. They should be applauded for their delicate exploration of the subject matter, but more so for their entirely innovative approach. You will not see anything quite like this.
Photo: Cat Prior Holt
Blue is at Lion & Unicorn Theatre from 30th June until 1st July 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.