Recent years have seen a significant rise in the number of (usually) London theatre productions being transmitted live to cinemas and other venues across the UK. While clearly successful commercially, it’s a moot point whether an audience watching any stage performance on a big screen really are still enjoying “live theatre”, especially once those recording what’s happening on the stage begin to utilise the basic visual language—close ups, mid-shots, long-shots—of cinema.
the energy and commitment of the cast is clear, and there’s a rhythmic strength in terms of visuals and sound that’s quite enticing
In Falling Dreams, created by Dutch company Het Filiaal Theatermakers, audiences are expected to watch a big screen, on which is shown the Alice-in-Wonderland-styled adventures of a 12 year old girl (played by Karin Jessica Jansen) who is so obsessed with sink holes that, lost in her daily routine of home and school, she unexpectedly falls out of the world as she knows it. Whether this is “just” a dream or a slip into some other dimension is never made clear, but it’s undoubtedly a coming-of- age experience of sorts for the not-yet- a-teenager.
Falling Dreams’ unique selling point, however, is that all the visuals, music and soundscape, through which the story is told, somewhat expressively, are created live in front of us by the cast, using a mixture of costumes, scale models, video-editing and “green screen” special effects. While the visual tricks are, on occasion, resolutely low-rent, the final results are far better than you might expect. Also somewhat disconcerting; when watching the screen, as with any visual presentation, it’s easy for us to suspend our disbelief—and yet we can also see how artificial their methods of creation actually are.
Falling Dreams can sometimes feel a tad too literal—the girl’s “mood swings” represented by her being on a park-swing, for example—and, just like the original Alice’s adventures, somewhat episodic. But the energy and commitment of the cast is clear, and there’s a rhythmic strength in terms of visuals and sound that’s quite enticing. Weird, but in a good way, as one young boy said behind me after the end of the show.