Review of The Fantastical Adventures of [Not] Being With You

What’s on the Fringe

Publication Date: 25 June, 2012

By Sophie Porter

★★★★ out of 5

I always have a good time at The Blue Elephant Theatre whenever I go, even if the performance isn’t incredible, breath-taking, thought-provoking and all those other pretentious phrases used to describe artistic expression. So I jumped at the chance to see The Fantastical Adventures of [Not] Being With You with a smile on my face and those oh-so-pesky high expectations of mine. I’m pleased to say, as I near-skipped out of the theatre, I’m pretty sure a while after it closed, with a childish and excitable grin on my face from ear to ear, my expectations of the performance were both met and then truly exceeded!

I was slightly hesitant when I first got in, I must admit. The performance started with a highly energetic and rather forced piece of choreography that would’ve looked right at home in an A-Level Dance Theatre production at a sixth-form college parents’ evening. I watched through gritted teeth, praying desperately for an improvement immediately following this rather cringe-worthy opening.

Low and behold, my prayers were answered! Almost instantly, the melodramatic energy and overly theatrical dialogue became charming and endearing, drawing you into this rather playful and child-like world with a loving hand and a warm heart.

There were many things I loved about this performance. One of the biggest being that, although it was a performance between two men in a relationship, it wasn’t about two men in a relationship. That is, to clarify, it wasn’t over-induldgent or unnecessarily ‘controversial’ in nature. The focus wasn’t on the fact they were gay, more on the trials and tribulations of any relationship – be it straight or gay, romantic or platonic – it almost didn’t matter. It was an exploration of intimacy, of emotion, of what brings two people together only to tear them apart in the end. The moments of affection and/or attraction between them weren’t gratuitous – they were sparce and innocent enough to merely heighten the urgency and importance of the journey we were watching – they were touching.

As the first bout of audience participation reared it’s ugly head, I could feel every ‘contemporary theatre’ bone in my body shudder to it’s very marrow at the thought of it. Nervous laughter rippled through the audience and I knew I wasn’t alone in this reaction. However, this is one of those rare occasions where I’m pleased to announce that I was wrong. It worked. Yes, the audience participation, rather than seem like an awkward and painful way of inflicting embarrassment onto the unsuspecting public, instead only served to bring the characters closer to the audience, in a number of different ways. We were asked to sing, asked to help create atmosphere during certain moments of story-telling and I even got given some balloons to take home (this was very exciting for me as I do like a good balloon)! It gave the characters another level of humanity which complimented the piece beautifully.

I must say, at this stage, the actors were no less than fantastic. Ryan Wichert and Max Wilson maintained an almost superhuman level of energy throughout which, considering this is a physical theatre performance – and it lasts 1 hour, 20 minutes with no interval – was quite an amazing achievement in itself. It was obvious from the first moment they stepped out onto the stage that they cared very passionately about what they were doing. Across the board – through the writing, directing, acting and even the lighting – you could tell that everyone involved truly cared for every beat of this performance and that excitement was carried throughout the entire room. Infectious.

In short (I could rave about this for another 1000 words, but I think it could get annoying), The Fantastical Adventures of [Not] Being With You was just as promoted: funny, energetic, playful, charming, exciting and just generally pretty great!

It’s, honestly, a real adventure from start to finish and a powerful, emotional journey that will leave you fighting the urge to jump on stage and give them both a motherly hug, telling them it’s going to be ok, at the end.

If you ever feel the need to dance, sing, laugh, cry, go on a magical adventure under the sea with an octopus or play with balloons, this is the performance for you!

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