Taylor Edmonds is at Wales Millennium Centre’s Festival of Voice Cardiff to review a performance of Double Vision by Cardiff based theatre company Gagglebabble.
Co-produced by Wales Millennium Centre and Cardiff based theatre company Gaggblebabble as part of the Festival of voice, Double Vision takes a playful, thrilling look into the depths of human behaviour and the mind. The female-led production threads theatre and live music with creative projection to create a truly immersive experience.
Set aboard the Empress of the Sea, a luxury cruise ship heading to Havana, events unfold through the perspectives of best friends Serena, the Empress’ visually impaired entertainment singer, and Mel, the ship’s go-to bartender. The guests are a real source of humour, from sickly, plastic surgery obsessed suburban women to an entitled mummy’s-boy honeymooner. There is trouble in paradise, however, when idyllic sunsets and cocktails are disrupted by a stormy night at sea. It is here that things take a turn into darkness, where we experience the horrors of the mind as the tale of obsession and betrayal unravels.
Inspired by Alfred Hitchcock and Ernest Lehman’s unfinished script The Blind Man, co-founders of Gaggblebabble, Lucy Rivers and Hannah McPake, along with dramaturg Matt Hartley, have merged horror and comedy together to explore the darkness of the human psyche. Francois Pandolfo is full of energy and shines in his comedic multi-character performance.
The action is narrated by Mared Jarman (first half), and Lisa Jen Brown (second half), which not only makes Double Vision accessible to a visually-impaired audience, but also creates a poetic narrative voice that takes the audience through the chain of events. If you close your eyes during the performance, this narration paints a vivid picture of life at sea — you can smell the sea air, feel the spray of crashing waves on your face.
Music, composed by Rivers, is flawless and compliments the drama. The beautiful, haunting voice of 9Bach’s Lisa Jên Brown fronts musicians Paul Jones and Mark O’Connor. It crosses genres, amplifies the drama’s changes in mood and tone in a way that only live music could.
Joshua Pharo’s bold lighting and projection design is a key element in the success. As we see most of the action take place obscured behind a screen, the characters are mostly portrayed through their silhouettes. We see Serena as a mysterious goddess when she sings, bathing in blue light with the fabric of her dress floating around her. At times when the action veered toward the melodramatic, the stark lighting and instrumental pulled it back to a suspenseful place.
It is through projection that the nature of the troubled mind is explored. As Serena is plunged into the darkness of herself, she struggles to distinguish between fantasy and reality. We get a glimpse of what it would be like to not trust your own thoughts, question your own memories and experiences. When the senses are overwhelmed, the screen is filled with rippling psychedelic patterns and surrealist, Lynchian imagery, taking us into the weird and wonderful world of an altered reality.
Double Vision tells of a friendship that breaks boundaries. Love and obsession merge into one another, motives and human nature are questioned — How far would you go for someone you love? The audience’s perception of truth is challenged, as we are made to doubt the reliability of our narrators and their characteristics.
Overall, the production is a lot of fun. It is chaotic, full of colour and unexpected surprises. It is at these comedic and lively moments that Double Vision is at its best. Prepare for an overwhelming, multi-sensory experience that breaks through the genres of theatre and music.
Double Vision by Gagglebabble runs until June 17th.
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We speak to Lucy Rivers and Hannah McPake – co-founders of gig-theatre company Gagglebabble, who premiere Double Vision, co-produced by Wales Millennium Centre.