Out Of This World

MacRobert Arts Centre, Stirling

Mary Brennan

four stars

Ambition simply swirls and soars in this newly premiered production, co-commissioned by the MacRobert Arts Centre, and devised by writer/director Mark Murphy for his VTOL company. There’s a vivid strand of projections/animations that splatter across the stark grey walls of a hospital. These images will amplify the fragmentation of a young woman’s everyday existence, as staff work to keep her alive in the wake of a serious car crash. Music will feed into the ebb and flow of a crisis that is beyond medical science: the woman’s husband was fatally injured in the accident, and her will to survive is close to dying with him. We learn all this, because the character, Ellen (Sarah Swire), steps out of the action and tells us herself. She’s in an induced coma, but inside her head memories and thoughts are flying free - this mercurial state is illustrated by sequences of cannily judged aerial work.
Ambitious?  Unstintingly so, and indeed there are times when - attempting to convey the confusions in Ellen’s head - the collages of live performances, visuals, choreography (on and off ground) and soundscapes make timelines and narrative threads disjointed and elusive. What holds this jigsaw together is the love story that drip-feeds into the scenes of A&E procedures. As Ellen’s inner world opens up to us, we catch sight of her globe-trotting singing career, her plans for wedded bliss, her growing awareness of what she has lost - and her own unhappy choices. Swire is increasingly compelling as her anguish goes off the Richter scale, convulsed by the finality of letting hope go. The whole creative team, and excellent supporting cast, meet all the other challenges with deceptive ease.