Stage Review: Floating – it’s a real trip

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A grab bag of stand-up comedy, improvisation, performance art, storytelling, radio-play and even travelogue, The Arts Club / Push Festival production of Floating is a fanciful theatre hybrid that will charm and surprise even the most staunch theatre purist.

Floating is Hugh Hughes’ (Shon Dale-Jones) recounting of how, as a younger man, he had set out to leave his home on the Welsh island of Anglesey.  At the precise moment he is about to step onto the bridge that would take him away, an earthquake strikes, collapsing the bridge setting Anglesey adrift in the Atlantic.  Determined to still leave, Hughes’ attempts to escape the floating island are ultimately unsuccessful.

Shon Dale-Jones & Sioned Rowlands in the Arts Club / PuSh Festival presentation of Floating. Photo Jaimie Gramston.

To tell his story, the actors use a variety of high (and low) tech tools including a slide projector, laptop, sound mixer, flip charts, props and overhead projector.  Helping him along the way is Sioned Rowlands who madly runs around operating these various gadgets and moving props about while simultaneously playing the other characters in the story.

Much of the charm in Floating comes from Dale-Jones himself.  He is definitely the master of his story but he is equally at ease with improvisation, especially when the audience gets involved with the show (including one audience member last night who may have wished they had kept their mouth shut).  But while always charming, I couldn’t help but feel something percolating just beneath the surface that makes it clear he really is the guy in control even when things go a little sideways.

Much like Dale-Jones, Rowlands is equally as charming as she goes about helping audience members understand their role, passing out the wrestling books found in Hughes’ Nain’s (Welsh for grandmother) home, or dressed in a swimming cap, dunking her head into a small bowl of water over 200 times to help illustrate an attempt by Hughes to swim away from the island.  Connections are obviously important to Hughes and his story and there is an unspoken one between Dale-Jones and Rowlands that adds to appeal of the show.

With an eye to a deeper message about the memory of truth, imagination and the relationships between them, Dale-Jones never lets them get in the way of his storytelling, preferring to let them float on the ripples of this good yarn.

Floating is definitely a real trip.  You should get on-board.

4 out of 5 Stars Floating

Created and performed by Shon Dale-Jones and Sioned Rowlands.  An Arts Club Theatre Company / PuSh International Performing Arts Festival presentation of a Hoipolloi production.  On stage at the Arts Club Revue Stage on Granville Island through February 5, 2011.  

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