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What It Feels Like
Published on Friday, 19 August 2011

4 stars

C venues - C too (venue website)
4-21 Aug, 4:30pm-5:40pm
Reviewed by Carmel Doohan

 Recommended for age 14+ only.

What does it feel like to die? What does it feel like for love to fade, and how can we get it back? This is the story of a relationship gone wrong – a chance in a surreal afterlife to make amends. The script is very funny, the plot is deliciously twisted and the choreography is stunning.

Trapped in his own subconscious, trying to awake from a coma, Nicholas is forced to face his mistakes. Secrets are revealed as his wife, Sarah, creates a complex picture of infidelity. The tight banter of the two 'doctors' is enjoyable and clever. Influenced by Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind, they are impressively written; they take the audience with them as they blunder through purgatory, picking apart their patients’ psyches.

The piece is based on Encompass Production's collaboratively-written play, and Thomas Mayo scripts this shorter version with rhythm and wit. The company perform it with style, dancing furniture and walls around the stage to let time and reality shift and merge. A unique and very effective device has ninjas swooping across the stage; these “Aspects” with black stockings covering their faces surround the characters in dark menacing clouds. Their movement is wonderfully nuanced; as passive aggression and regret are given moving form, each one feeds eerily off the emotion in the room, creating a ballet of powerful unease.

As the not-yet-dead couple, Sam Holmes and Ellen Gould give strong performances. They talk with conviction and create a believable sense of a shared history. However, the confusion of the strange world they are in can only sustain itself for so long, and towards the end things become repetitive and unclear. The climax doesn't sufficiently explain which character will live on and any progress in their relationship is lost in a blur of weeping “I love you's”.

Despite this slightly disappointing conclusion, the overall effect is impressive.  Whatever it is, you cannot leave without being a bit closer to knowing what it feels like.

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