Merging live performance with film, animation, visual art and music, WRESTING THE WALRUS is a playful and poignant piece which will stay with you long after you’ve left the theatre
Following their win of the 2018 Hodgkiss Award, theatre company 154 Collective premiere their new play WRESTLING THE WALRUS this week at Manchester’s Royal Exchange Theatre before transferring to the Yard in London and ARC Stockton.
WRESTLING THE WALRUS tells the tale of two people who form an unlikely bond over a series of chance encounters. When Gracie spots an elderly man (Mog) sitting alone on a park bench, she decides to share her lunch with him. The next day the same thing happens. As their meetings continue and they begin to share stories from their pasts, the man begins to question the truth of their adventures and whether they might not be strangers after all.
Combining live performance with film, animation, visual art and music, WRESTLING THE WALRUS is a playful and poignant piece about loneliness, companionship and our innate need for kindness and a shared history.
Using the experience of dementia to explore how important our stories are to us, this 75-minute piece boasts a rich, deep narrative which explores different aspects of the human condition in intimate and deeply personal ways.
Hannah Sibai’s simple yet effective set, which places a park bench on top of grassy mount, provides the perfect backdrop for Gracie and Mog’s meetings. Leanne Rowley (Gracie) and Nik Wood-Jones (Mog) are both excellent here, communicating love, kindness and compassion, as well as fear, confusion and frustration, often without words, to tell a beautiful story of two people trying to reconnect after their world is turned upside down.
But what really makes WRESTLING THE WALRUS stand out is the way this story is presented. Writer and Director Dan Mallaghan spent a year exploring the single narrative across a range of different artistic platforms, each designed in such a way that they can be experienced either as standalone pieces of work or collectively. The result is a gloriously delicate and incredibly moving piece which feels very different from other shows that have explored this territory.
The addition of musicians Hayley Youell, James Dey and Nick Lewis who perform live lyrical music onstage to accompany the projected film and animations, is equally inspired, transporting the audience to a different world and inviting them to draw more from the narrative than is explicitly presented.
In fact, with a little trimming here and there, particularly in the animation and video sequences, WRESTING THE WALRUS has the potential to be something truly special. This is a wonderfully creative and innovative piece which will stay with you long after you’ve left the theatre.
WRESTLING THE WALRUS runs at the Royal Exchange Theatre until 6 July 2019
Donna is the Founder and Editor of Frankly, My Dear UK. By day, she works as a digital marketing specialist, by night she reviews film, theatre and music for a wide range of publications including WhatsonStage and The Reviews Hub. Loves Formula 1, prosecco and life.