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When the Dove Returns at The Blue Elephant Theatre

James Litte - Credit Brittany Stillwell
James Litte – Credit Brittany Stillwell

Backpack Theatre’s When the Dove Returns explores the frail nature of humanity in the face of a disintegrating world. Currently playing at Blue Elephant Theatre, the piece follows the journey of 6 individuals seeking refuge on a ship during an apocalyptic flood. At the mercy of a tyrannical ‘captain’, the 5 characters battle starvation, harsh weather and impossible living conditions simply for a chance at survival. But is it really worth it for a world that may or may not weather the storm?

This socially aware production is a devised piece intended to explore the ongoing challenges surrounding climate change. The use of audio clips at the beginning of the production works well to establish the tone, as does the use of lighting and somewhat otherworldly silhouette that greets us. The performance space is simple yet effective, transformed into a ship’s deck with the use of industrial plastic and stagnant water. While the front row can expect to be repeatedly splashed, the use of water certainly adds to the atmosphere.

At times it feels like the piece struggles to balance its desire to ‘shock’ with its need to be sincere. The interspersed comedic moments are a welcome relief, particularly the random dance party; however the constant focus on the lavatory becomes a bit much after the third time.

The subplot of the young mother, played by director Alice Lavender is perhaps the strongest and most genuine narrative within the piece. Her monologue is extremely engaging and delivered with sincerity and honesty, providing a grounding thread for the production. It was a shame that the ‘fantasy’ that followed undermined the authenticity of this moment.

While there is certainly room to polish and refine the production When the Dove Returns succeeds in providing a social commentary on the impact of environmental neglect while managing to offset the doom and gloom with a good dose of humour and eclectic flair. Not your typical night at the theatre, but if you arrive with an open mind there is certainly something to be gained.

3 Star Review

How much humanity will we sacrifice when our lives are at stake?
The survivors of a flood have been stuck on a ship for thirty days. As the damage done to their world becomes clear, they have to find a way to rebuild their lives…

This new, ambitious devised piece by Backpack Theatre combines touching observations and outrageous humour in a dynamic, physical piece that is sure to make the audience laugh, gasp and reflect.

Dates: Tuesday 28 March – Saturday 1 April
http://www.blueelephanttheatre.co.uk/

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