Walking into theSpace on the Mile this morning, I had very little knowledge about what
I guarantee, you will take something away with you when you leave, and for me, that was hope for the future of storytelling.
Laura Day and Alexander Hartley expertly weave their way through an exploration of friendship, loss and lies, carefully whipping their tale into a light and fluffy consistency without ever sacrificing any of the impact or power of their message. As performers, they are wonderfully engaging, seamlessly transitioning between characters and demonstrating what is clearly an intimate and trusting rapport. Their touches of honesty and whimsy are endearing and self-aware: “Am I afraid of dogs?” Joe wonders. “No, it’s just a reasoned distaste.”
In essence, the package is similar to that of an old fashioned, illustrated story-book brought to life – the kind which you remember fondly from your childhood. There’s almost a Roald Dahl-esque sensibility to the dialogue; it does not shy away from the more difficult aspects of its themes, but presents them in such a consistently accessible way as to be a universally appropriate show. It’s the kind of play that feels like a cosy Sunday afternoon on the cusp between summer and autumn.
Columns is a brilliant balance of its individual elements. Whilst the production occasionally succumbs to the tropes of studio room theatre (there are multiple boxes arranged in different formations to demonstrate location) this doesn’t detract and is especially well done at times. The addition of live music is a nice touch, remaining unobtrusive but setting just the right tone for some of the scenes (think Juno, or 500 Days of Summer). It is also a show that not only acknowledges the creative process, but refreshingly exhibits it as a fundamental part of the finished product, rather than a shady ‘behind-the-scenes’ activity which the audience should be kept entirely isolated from; this is both unusual and refreshing.
Ultimately, this show is all about connections: between people, between ideas, between circumstances. We are always trying to reach across the distances between us and find shared moments to hold onto. In many ways, stories are the best way of achieving this and Columns is acutely aware of this. Whilst this play isn’t quite a philosophical musing on the fragility of the society, it is no less meaningful, powerful, or affecting than pieces that do delve that deeply into human existence. It is, above all, joyful.
“Stories come out of people’s experiences.” Laura muses. “They connect up to real life experiences,” agrees Alexander, “but not with a straight line. We’re trying to show the shape of that line.” Like the show itself, this concept has greater resonance than can be comprehended after only 60 minutes. I guarantee, you will take something away with you when you leave, and for me, that was hope for the future of storytelling.