It sometimes seems like productions for children try harder than those for adults. Perhaps because juvenile audiences, used to streaming and on demand entertainment, are less endowed with the patience to simply watch a couple of people talking to each other, so there’s more of a need to innovate and create something that’s exciting for the senses. Or maybe it’s because there’s an emphasis on the magical, the mysterious and the dreamy when the action is calibrated to younger minds. Either way, the result is often marvellous and Dutch company Het Filiaal theatermakers‘ creation is a case in point.
Falling Dreams takes us on a journey that’s intrinsically a cinematic and theatrical experience, with the added dimension of bringing the backstage onstage. There’s a balletic fluidity to the action, which consists of live music (several instruments and digital soundscape), song, poetry and technical wizardry. What’s really exciting about this is that everything is happening as we watch, which of course is normal for theatre, but this is theatre that layers on masses of special effects, optical illusions, cutting edge software ingenuity and complex use of props to create an exquisite sense of immersion. A large screen at the back of the stage takes its feed from several cameras and a go pro, achieving a filmic perspective, with the fascinating element of being able to see in the foreground exactly how effects are being achieved. It’s a cross between watching a live show and watching a live filming and there’s something very satisfying about that mix. Not only is it an impressive feat of stagecraft, with constantly changing intricate staging and live editing, it’s also involving, helping us to get lost in the mind of the twelve year old girl (played by a thirty four year old actor), around whom the story revolves.
At points the story is very slightly confusing, although this could be because the character is in fact lost in her own thoughts and the complications of her mind. But it’s a strong story, beautifully told, charming, yet appropriately dark where required. The performers (who are also camera operators, stage managers, skilled musicians and film makers) engage the audience fully and move as one with elan, throughout this wonderfully complicated and mesmerising piece.