To be, or not to be IMMERSIVE, that is the question.

August 14, 2017

To be, or not to be IMMERSIVE, that is the question.

For the first night of COUNTING SHEEP at the HUB, mindfull of the need to be an objective observer - I decided to view passively on tiered seating rather than join the brave audience in the performance space. I need to go again. The overview was tremendous, alarming and uplifting in equal measure, but for those on the floor it was clearly a very different experience.

From the spectacular feast that opens this 'Guerrilla Folk Opera' to the wedding celebrations and then on inexorably to the barricades and beyond, the faces of those members of the audience in the thick of it, radiated both exhilaration and empathy. I was constantly astonished at how the cast managed a disparate group of at least eighty or ninety people. They needed no persuasion to fully embrace what was expected of them. What we aloft observed and they below experienced, was for much of the time brilliantly orchestrated mayhem.

There is no way a few short paragraphs can do justice to the breadth and bravery of COUNTING SHEEP. Shocking images on three vast screens were swiftly created before you by cast and audience. If you are down there you have no choice but to be involved, and no one resisted. Music, song and dance propel the action and words are few. I retain several key images where projected reality and seemless recreation took my breath away.

The surreptitious and artful way in which the protests gather momentum. The arrival of a bulldozer to repel the riot police. The creation of the barricade's themselves. A joyous group photograph. A funeral where red roses are laid on a body passing through the throng. A final defiant image of the last push under vast gleaming camouflage netting. This is possibly the most emotive part of the entire performance - but sadly of course, it was not to be the last push. 

Since 2014 there have been over 10,000 deaths in Ukraine. This morning I read the US administration are still debating whether to supply the country with weapons. I urge you to go and see this remarkable and passionate production. There are only six performances before the Festival closes on Sunday. On Saturday the 19th there is a matinee at 3pm for those who have to travel from afar. Please do.

JOE VANEK