Shown at the Macrobert Arts Centre, Out of This World is a heart-wrenching performance piece, about the torment of grief and demise and the mental as well as physical torture we go through when we are brutally shaken by the callousness of life. Created by Mark Murphy, the genius behind the closing ceremony of the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, Out of This World is a dramatic ensemble that uses every innovative resource available, redefines expectations and promises to open your mind.
When the story begins, it is initially very complex and confused to say the least. For a while, it consists of various medical professionals and distressed relatives whizzing around an emergency unit in a hurried frenzy. But there seems to be two characters-Ellen (Sarah Swire) and Antony (Scott Hoatson)-that are apart from this, and go about in their own muddled path. However, as the pair continue their own strange melody of peculiar actions and words, things seem to become increasingly disjointed and even lack any sense of continuity. Then Antony disappears for a while and Ellen is left alone in a bizarre whirlwind of chaotic conversations and interactions. For example, Ellen seems desperate to get on a plane, and her very existence appears to almost depend on it. But as she anxiously tries to board, she meets an aloof and obstructive consultant (Catherine Cusack) who stops her and says she cannot go with any of her luggage. In obvious fear and swelling physical and emotional suffering, Ellen agrees to let go of her luggage, submit herself to the consultant’s will and fall into an abyss of dreams, hallucinations and visions.
Until this point, we don’t really appreciate what is going on. Who really are the characters? What do they represent? Do they have a literal or just a symbolic connection to each other? To be honest, I was sitting there and beginning to feel rather stupid. But all was not lost, as slowly the inner workings of the piece came together and I realised that it wasn’t meant to make sense…yet.
Suddenly, Ellen’s back story came to life and all the characters gained greater substance. At the heart of it all, we find out that Ellen and Antony had been married for 5 weeks, 3 days and 3 hours, when they ended up in an horrific car accident. Ellen is taken to hospital, where she is placed under a medically induced coma and internally must face the truth of what has happened and is haunted by the choices she now must make. As the minutes tick by, we grow to sadly understand that Antony is dead, and that Ellen doesn’t want to say goodbye. Lingering in a sphere between life and death, Ellen has to choose whether to give up her own life and die, but be with her husband, or to choose life, but say goodbye to her love forever. At the same time, new scenes commence, yet somehow, they don’t feel entirely original, almost as if we’ve been there before. It is then that we realise that they’re not new, or old, but are fragments from former scenes mixed together with fresh elements, each making the story clearer. Now we understand that the previous scenes were intentionally mystifying, because they weren’t being seen through eyes or minds that were focused or conscious. They were veracity being diluted into something more fluid, as part of a psychological phenomenon in Ellen’s own mind, or through the lenses of torment and disillusionment. Nevertheless, at long last, Ellen makes her choice and is forced to deal with the reality of her decision and grieve for what she has lost and will never get back.
Out of This World is a tragic, harrowing, yet moving testimony to the way our minds deal with and process the hurt life can cruelly deal us without any rhyme nor reason. Through the use of aerial art and movement, as well as various forms of dramatic lighting and projection, the story was literally lifted from the stage and became something more dimensional and alive. The messages were dark and shadowy, much like the threatening nature of loss. But most importantly, it was clear that the painful themes were honestly felt by the audience and they resonated with the performance, and that to me, is the greatest achievement and purpose of theatre anyone can hope to experience.
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