An eruption of furious, ebullient and unbridled imagination, In the Surface of a Bubble is the latest theatrical endeavour from Blue Elephant Theatre. Taking on the philosophical behemoth that is the world’s creation, it challenges society of all kinds and celebrates the inimitable penchant children have for make-believe. Simple, funny and with an innovative combination of puppetry, live music and physical strength, you’d be forgiven for presuming this is a charming fable for the whole family. Yet, as with all good social critiques, the plot revolves to expose a dark and frightening presence that is truly disconcerting.
Long before the world as we know it, there is a time when imagination reigns over logic. To make something true or real, one has only to believe it and across the world, peaceful beings with no physical limitations float through the air. One such being, a girl named Michelle, is the daughter of the powerful Kaa, an entity unrestricted by gender. One day, Michelle meets one of Kaa’s ‘voluntary’ slaves, a young man named Nathan, who lives without imagination. Excited by his foreign lifestyle of hardship and struggle, she vows to give up the easy life. Pleased with her response, Nathan embarks on a global campaign to convert the world and builds the City of Logic as his headquarters. However, not everyone wishes to sacrifice eternal bliss for a life of ‘meaning’ and soon the world is split in two by a single choice: live happily and inconsequentially forever or live temporarily but with an appreciation for life itself.
In the Surface of a Bubble beautifully but quite simply dissects society’s fundamental rules and values and exposes its ultimately self-sacrificing nature. Void of time, space and context, the message comes through loud and clear. Writer and director Edward Day charges into action with the cast and together they unfurl a gorgeous tapestry of meticulous movement and pioneering storytelling. Day’s presence onstage has the audience leaning forward in eager anticipation and his creative physicality keeps the plot galloping along. The story’s heroine Michelle is brought to life by Line Møller-Christensen. Her bright and musical vocal tone and open expressions are wonderfully countered by Adam Cridland who, as Nathan, simultaneously projects smouldering ambition and sulky obstinacy. Amelie Leroy completes the quartet supplying a plethora of delightful characterisations and collectively the cast tumble about the stage with tremendous spirit. The design and fabrication of the masks and puppets is particularly impressive. Each character is expertly crafted to portray freedom, oppression and hope.
While many theatre companies are currently jumping on the ‘puppetry’ bandwagon to very little avail, thankfully the same cannot be said for In the Surface of a Bubble. Clever, intriguing but funny and dark in equal measure, this piece provides a detached appraisal of the conflicting rules we live by.
Reviewed by Alex Foott