Saturday, March 3, 2007

FLOATING at the Barrow Street Theatre

Today I saw Floating, created and performed by Hugh Hughes and Sioned Rowlands, at the Barrow Street Theatre. The show is a multimedia presentation, Andy Kaufman meets Victor Borge by way of The Truman Show and Space 1999.

The plot is simple: a man named Hugh Hughes tries to leave his Welsh island home of Anglesey and start a new life on the very day that an earthquake destroys the bridge to the mainland, sending the island afloat into the North Atlantic.

Before the story gets underway, ringmaster Hughes engages the audience in a lot of silliness, in particular, needling the latecomers to the performance. If you don't like audience participation, avoid the first few rows or arriving late.

Victor Borge in COMEDY WITH MUSIC was the master of teasing latecomers, as when I saw him set up a gag in one of his Broadway performances in the 1970s. He told the on-time audience to laugh like crazy later on when he refers to that supposed great joke he told at the beginning of the show, just to make the latecomers feel awful that they missed it. Borge pointed to the late folk and tells them it's too bad they missed that great joke at the beginning of the show. It's funny but not hostile.

Hughes is a little hostile and mildly amusing like Letterman when he asks the latecomers if they wish to apologize for being late. They even do a quick redo of the opening of the show. Other silliness includes passing around to the audience stones from the island and wrestling magazines from his nine (Welsh for grandmother), played by cohort Rowlands. She also plays the other characters, most notably, mean old Mr. Morgan.

After 30 minutes of explaining the story via film, running a PowerPoint presentation of longitude and latitude coordinates of the floating island, and passing around more items to the audience including a handheld slide viewer showing his grandparents, the real plot enfolds.

The sonic/visual highlight of the story is the earthquake, with a close-your-eyes count-to-10 scene change a close second. The island breaks away after the quake and Hugh tries to swim off the island. His efforts are for naught and Mr. Morgan chastises and abuses him most creepily. Morgan gets his comeuppance in comical fashion, giving context to some of the props the audience has been given. At one point the island makes it as far as Iceland, in an odd digression seen on the computer projector. He jumps off Anglesey to Iceland and goes back to Anglesey. I guess he didn't want to leave Anglesey as bad as we were led to believe.

The workings of the Gulf stream brings a resolution to the tale.

has a lot of energy and was a bargain at $14 from TDF (Theatre Development Fund). This show was a part of Wales Week 2007 in New York, via the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2006 where it received a Total Theatre Award. After the performance the two players were in the lobby. I congratulated Mr. Hughes and Ms. Rowlands for an enjoyable afternoon. She stamped my hand which now has on it a black circle in which the outline of the island is seen, surrounding the word "Floating."


yakimba said...

Is this real, or truly, an Earl Camembert sketch??

Mel Torme indeed ...

angelissima said...

Earl Camembert...ha!
Hugh Hughes?
Did you know he was an adopted child on "One Life to Live?"

Brian said...

No but I can hum Some Times I Feel Like a Motherless Child.