Another week, another example of storytelling to be seen at Greenwich Theatre, with The Flanagan Collective's gently soporific tale of the strive for idealism in today's frenetic, corporate and Internet driven world. With no set, costume, character embodiment or many scenes to speak of, we're instead told the tale of disillusioned J and Blair through polemic speeches, poetry (sometimes explicit, sometimes just rhythmic), music, songs and projections (that add colour rather than description) in a very relaxed but rather unmoving manner.
What the company do in this storytelling arena, they clearly do well - stripped bare and with simplicity.
As we enter, the cast of three are wandering about the stage chatting amongst themselves and looking a little bored as they wait for the audience to settle in. They're clearly a troupe about to tell us a story rather than create a world of escape. Kicking off with an auditorium-wandering tirade ("Steal from Tesco!" in the style of the classic "Wear sunscreen"), Holly Beasley-Garrigan then tells us the story of J - a 26 year old physics teacher with a weak heart who dreams of being an astronaut - as she goes on a journey to embrace the cosmos.
To maintain a varied pace for the first half hour she carries, she delivers the heightened reality of the poetic text very well, sometimes using a mic stand, sometimes quietly downstage, once using an audience member to deliver a quote from astrophysicist Carl Sagan, for no other reason I could see other than forcing movement and giving a different 'sound' to her voice. But it does break up what could otherwise be just a monotonous monologue.
When she travels 400 miles to meet an online date, Blair (himself a tree surgeon and poet), he initially takes over the monologue but also plays out some scenes together with J (although as part of the storytelling as they punctuate with "he / she said" before and after delivering lines). Pretty guitar-led music continues throughout amongst the lectures against society (his focus being corporate "Johnny Profit" only out to make money, and the existence of billboards as a signifier of all that is wrong with the world), and there are also a couple of melodic songs on idealism. The words may be reminiscent of student rallying ("listen to the electricity going from pylon to pylon" and "unstitch every thread till I'm threadbare") but they are gentle, sung well and with a clear belief.
As a piece of storytelling, it's generally engaging, being led by two highly-skilled orators. Their laid back manner gives little to excite or maintain interest but if I was listening to an audiobook then their delivery would make that enjoyable. The story isn't particularly new (we should let go of the Internet, look to nature, eschew capitalism and remember "we are all intelligent dust" in this Universe) and the underlying love story isn't explored enough as to become believable, but the narration and score gently move it along pleasantly and with ease.
What the company do in this storytelling arena, they clearly do well - stripped bare and with simplicity. Whether that's enough to maintain your interest for an hour very much depends on how many similar pieces in this style you have seen before and therefore how unique a structure it may be for you.