Focus on: Flight

Lewis Porteous visits the workshop where Vox Motus have created an intricate, immersive comic book of a play

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Published 22 Jul 2017

"It's such a difficult concept to explain...”

Co-director Candice Edmunds barely knows where to start with Flight, the almost confusingly innovative new work from Vox Motus. “This has none of the usual rules of theatre, it's such a weird experience for us. There's been no rehearsal process, but we've been in here for five months making the piece. Everything about this is different from how a traditional show would come together.”

As she searches for the words, John Williams's Jurassic Park score swells out from the studio next door. Concentrate hard enough and you'll hear industrial clatter sputtering from the workshop down the corridor. Sitting in the building's breakout space with the amiable, slightly bewildered Edmunds is like finding yourself in the eye of a hurricane.

"Everything we've done has been different from its predecessor,” she says of her celebrated theatre company, “but this piece has taken this approach to another level. We haven't even got the best vocabulary to describe this show yet, because we're still discovering our response to the material.”

More installation art than anything resembling conventional theatre, Flight promises one of the most intimate experiences on offer this August. A meticulously timed front-of-house nightmare, it will see individual audience members seated in booths surrounding a dimly lit carousel. Distractions will be kept to a minimum as headphones are donned and dioramas illuminated in specific sequence. The carousel will rotate twice over 45 minutes, effectively creating an immersive comic book.

Based on Caroline Brothers' novel Hinterland, about two young siblings seeking refuge on foot from Afghanistan to the UK, Edmunds insists the novelty of the piece's presentation won't in any way lessen its emotional impact.

"We found ourselves questioning whether this was a piece we wanted to make at all because the story of refugees was everywhere in the news. And of course it's overwhelming, very depressing, and hard to engage with, especially when you talk about the numbers and scale of the horror.

"Flight was about changing how we related to the material. When it comes together, it will feel very Victorian peep show. The models are beautiful and delicate, and there's real fun and titillation in watching them unfold, but the subject matter is intense, sometimes harrowing.”

Finally, the perplexed auteur settles on a description she's happy with: “You're swept in and then you get slapped across the face.”