Discussing the tension hinted at within the ambiguous title, A Little Space is a physical theatre performance which addresses both the comfort found at home in one’s own space and the terrifying sense of isolation so often encountered in modern high-rise housing.
Produced by Mind the Gap in association with Gecko Theatre, this absorbing production brings the talents of learning-disabled artists to the national stage. The cast are supported by an incredibly moving and elegant original score from Dave Price, which provides atmosphere and texture to a relatively bare stage. Copper-pipes which echo through the building like bells are not the only conduits which connect the residents. Rhys Jarman’s sparse set includes mysterious portals which carry the inhabitants into mysterious and unnaturally hued spaces. We are left to consider where these doorways lead, another place or time? The abyss of mental illness?
The apartment building itself is physically characterised by Chris Swain’s inventive lighting as either friend or foe depending on each occupant’s – and performer’s – personal experience. Apartment walls may appear either crushingly claustrophobic, or the provider of a warm embrace.
The notion of a very individual experience is also gifted to the audience, as the lack of dialogue and nonlinear narrative force us to construct our own interpretation with each viewer taking away something very different. You may see a young and loved-up couple becoming distant over time, as the headiness of a new romance fades into the RBG light of the TV screen. Perhaps you’ll feel for the young woman living alone for the first time after the death of a parent and struggling to deal with the anxiety her grief triggers. or maybe you’ll chuckle at a mischievous entity – conceivably the spirit of the building or the passage of time – who moves your furniture when you’re not looking.
The performers are surprisingly raw in their honest delivery. It’s a rare and special thing to experience theatre without ego and with such genuine and engaging integrity. The physicality of the performances was breath-taking, with the cast clearly having resolved some of the timing issues which appear to have troubled earlier performances.
A Little Space is a complex piece - just short of chaotic - as we are transported from flat to flat around the building. Lighting flickers and fails, malevolent forces trick and entrap, green ghosts and gardens appear and recede. The sheer weight of modern living - it’s pressures and possessions - manifest as an intolerable burden to carry. There is hope, however, that a connection with a lover or neighbour can provide enough solace to lift the tension momentarily.
A Little Space is on tour and to find out where go to: www.mind-the-gap.org.uk/productions/a-little-space/
Reviewer: Anne Ward
Reviewed: 9th March 2020
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★