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Above Me The Wide Blue Sky at the Young Vic

Alice Dickerson

Fevered Sleep's evocative ode to a lost rural idyll, performed in an unconventional manner.

They say never work with animals or children. One is reminded of this when watching the start of Above Me The Wide Blue Sky. Just before the play is due to begin, a hesitant whippet is led on stage. It takes a while for the dog to settle down; in the meantime, his handler smiles meekly at the audience as if to apologise for the delay.

Yet the slight delay is mostly immaterial to the audience. Many have arrived early – as encouraged – to appreciate the space, which is part stage, part installation. Large screens line the four walls, displaying ever-changing skyscapes, whilst sound and light combine to create a calming, meditative sensory experience.

Above Me The Wide Blue Sky is, in essence, one extended ode to the beauty of the landscape and countryside around us. The minutia of nature, and the pleasures we derive from these, are listed in exquisite detail. Then, with almost perfect symmetry, and in painful detail, it is described how these objects of natural beauty have largely disappeared. This is an unashamed nostalgia, providing a sepia-tinted view of a bygone age.

We never find out anything about the character or background of the sole performer, played by Laura Cubitt. She is instead more a narrator; the writing is so evocative and image-laden that very little action is required. Yet Cubitt looked mildly uncomfortable throughout; from the moment that she walked onto the stage, whippet in hand, until the end, her body behaviour failed to match her confident delivery.

The essence of Above Me The Wide Blue Sky is unclear. It is not clear why so many of these natural objects have disappeared; there is no apparent political or environmental undercurrent to the performance. Indeed, it is not even clear why a whippet was required on stage; it was well-behaved and did not move once settled. Yet one suspects that this was the intention of the performance's creators; to leave you free to draw your own conclusions.

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