The pre-recorded ones simply doesn’t allow for real acknowledgement of the audience. Or their participation. Director Zoe Seaton has already shown us a different way with Creation’s interactive version of the Tempest (which returns later in the month) and now she applies the same formula to Irish mythology for Big Telly’s Operation Elsewhere.
Like the Tempest, it’s rough and ready, and the audience itself is the star in a story which features rips in the curtain that divides fairyland from our own mortal world, and features a changeling bride, a kidnap by the outcast Sweeny (Michael Johnston) who is doomed to experience the worst human pain in the form of loneliness, and a daring rescue that must be undertaken by the audience under the direction of retired warrior Scatha (Nicky Harley).
The story telling isn’t always pin-sharp, but it has a madcap energy, some likeable comic performances from the game cast, and some lovely moments including shadow puppetry, and segments where the audience can annotate a map on screen, learn a war dance, and creep through a dark, dark wood. There is a pleasure in seeing inside the actor’s own living spaces but also glimpsing the daily family life of the audience as they are watching. You don’t often see a baby being fed in the theatre, and there is something about these moments that are not distracting but rather make the experience feel all the more communal. Art, after all, doesn’t have to be put on a pedestal but can be celebrated as part of everyday life.
Adapted from a story by Jane Talbot, whose The Faerie Thorn was a big hit for Big Telly back in 2017, this is a show that plays with technology as a kind of magic as it takes us over the border into another land like travellers passing through airport security and passport control. As in fairyland itself—and all good theatre—time bends and warps. We are caught between the tick and the tock. For the most enjoyment do what Puca (Chris Grant), our guide, advises and “open your dreaming eyes wide.”
You can watch Operation Elsewhere until Mon 4 May. Book tickets in advance here