As part of its programme for 2020, Manipulate has provided a platform for new and emerging production to demonstrate their works in progress to a wider audience.

UpClaire Wood

Up is the latest offering from Glasgow company Visible Fictions. We’re on a plane. It’s bumpy. Then it’s very bumpy. Bags start spilling out of the overhead lockers. Oxygen masks. The air hostess tries, but doesn’t quite succeed in containing her panic. We’re told to clasp our hands atop our heads. And brace.

All of this, from two actors and a bunch of objects stashed in and around a table and a couple of wheeled units in the Anatomy Theatre at Summerhall. This is a blend of object theatre and puppetry – are Barbies puppets, objects or neither?

While the script is very sparing, the audience are told enough of the story to discern that Jay and Jamie, sat next to each other on board this turbulent plane, are possibly going to find love.

Martin McCormick and Zoe Hunter appear to take effortlessly to this world of countless props where a tiny suitcase can be a picnic hamper, a cliff edge and a tiny suitcase. Frances Poet’s script is eloquent in its brevity, and Andy McGregor’s sound design evokes all the awfulness of a panicking plane. And then the story stops.

This fifteen minute portion was excellent. Captivating, imaginative, tantalisingly unended – but like a brilliantly crafted trailer, I’m bursting to know what happens next.

Around this work in progress was an introduction from director Douglas Irvine talking about his inspiration for the work. Following the performance, the audience were invited to throw in reflections, observations, questions – which revealed a fascinating potential unfolding of the tale that it would be wholly wrong to reveal here before the work is even done. There may be some exploration of gravity and the theory of relativity. But we’ll have to wait and see.

The fifteen minutes was brilliant. The unveiling of the behind the scenes process and thinking a fascinating revelation for anyone who’s ever wondered how shows get put together. Where ideas come from. How people explore and experiment with new forms to more effectively make an audience feel like they’re sitting in a plane that’s about to crash. Better yet, the unveiling of the production process was all simultaneously signed.  More please, Visible Fictions and more please, Manipulate.


Obvious Unrest – Emily Christie

Obvious Unrest is an atmospheric and inventive piece of physical theatre. Opening with the line: “I want to show you everything without saying anything” the next 40 minutes are a swirling and captivating blend of movement and music which encapsulates the staggering breadth of human emotions.

Ana Almeida, the sole performer on stage, is accompanied by musician DaveBeMac and a large plastic sheet. The entire show revolves around the metamorphosing sheet which evolves from a crumpled ball in Almeida’s hand to a suffocating force, taking on weight and life with her skilful movements.

A sense of narrative and evolution is created, the sheet is sometimes a shroud, sometimes clothing, at other times a screen. Just as the limits of the fabric are tested so is the extent of Almeida’s acting as she fights against the screen, acquiesces and finally tears it to pieces. There is never a spare or dull moment and the constant shifting, liminal acting and staging creates a real sense of structure and story. Almeida dominates the stage and moves through the performance with incredible, unflinching skill and prowess.

Likewise, DaveBeMac’s music provides a perfect backdrop which doesn’t simply compliment the acting but is a vital part of the performance. Gentle picking and strumming along with some expert use of a loop pedal creates beautiful melodies that navigate the emotional landscape of the piece perfectly, from the peaks of anger to the troughs of catatonia.

The lighting is subtle, but highly effective; making the sheet opaque, misty and dreamlike at the beginning of the performance before rising and falling with Almeida’s movements and the moods of the piece.

Obvious Unrest is a beautiful and challenging piece of theatre which creates a vast emotional landscape and fills it with technical expertise paired with impressively versatile acting and staging. As the performance ends, there is a definite feeling that the audience have seen a full portrait of the complicated and difficult world of emotions, without words being uttered.