Review: Converging Paths – Memorial, Slung Low Theatre Company, Harrogate Festival (From York Press)
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Review: Converging Paths – Memorial, Slung Low Theatre Company, Harrogate Festival
IT was the most intriguing invitation in the Harrogate Festival brochure, and it was free and availability was limited.
“You are going on an adventure,” it read. “We promise to keep you safe (if you follow instructions) and we promise to bring you back to Harrogate no later than 2 hours after you’ve started. Other than that, bring a good heart and a sense of curiosity.
Hat, check. Jacket, check. Curiosity, check. It was a windy but not wet Harrogate Thursday, night two of three for itinerant Leeds innovators Slung Low Theatre Company at the Harrogate Festival.
We were to meet director Alan Lane and producer Laura Clark by the blue Festival ticket kiosk, opposite Harrogate railway station to await further instructions and take possession of head sets that would be our guide for the “next instalments” and unfolding story.
Other than that, we knew only that we would be going to “secret locations” on stage four of Slung Low’s journey through five North Yorkshire festivals, from Coastival, Swaledale and Grassington to Harrogate and finally Ryedale.
Each festival would have its own show, albeit interconnected, as together they add up to an adaptation of Matthew David Scott ’s novel The Ground Remembered with its allegories wrapped in fairytales, fantasy and truth.
“Are you a vegetarian?” Er, no. Why? “You will find out later”. Next came an envelope: “Be at the War Memorial at 8.40pm, Look out for all Instructions. You’ll know they are for you because I’ll sign them Hx.”
Heralded by white balloons, Hx would turn out to be Helen (kiss). Headphones by now attached, we could see and hear her walking towards us to begin her storytelling role: her ten-year story of Helen, her best friends Edwin and Philip, and the bird that turned to stone in the town of shame.
“Are you the show?” she asked. Certainly we were part of it, as we followed her across the town’s shopping streets and encountered Edwin for the first time.
Suddenly we found ourselves at the station, “Next Instalment” written in chalk on the platform, and a banner inviting us to find our brown paper bags under the seats, containing supper of pork pie, Tomato Ketchup crisps and a fruit juice. Or the veggie option.
Would we, could we be joining the next train to York? Indeed we would be, sat among other passengers, as Edwin drew us further into the story en route to…Cattal.
We alighted; a long of row of chairs was already in place for us, and as the train on the opposite side pulled out, there stood a six-piece band, assembled to play one song and disappear again just as inexplicably as they had arrived.
Philip had joined the tale here, sharing beers and confessions with Edwin – and there will be more to come at Pickering Castle in Converging Paths – Storybook. For now, however, we were left with another envelope, The Final Moment contained within, tantalisingly too dark to read on the minibus return to Harrogate.
This had been an extraordinary union of the mysterious, the magical, the theatrical and the technical: a logistic miracle conducted with a magician’s sleight of hand and the organisational skills of a wedding planner and holiday guide rolled into one.
Next instalment, Pickering, July 30. Be there at 8.30pm. Cx