Saturday, 22 May 2021

REVIEW: AAAAA (FiveA) at the Lion & Unicorn Theatre

Kicking off post-lockdown theatrics at Lion & Unicorn Theatre is Proforca Theatre Company and their mysterious new show “AAAAA” (FiveA).

The company have taken on the noble task of bringing audiences back into Fringe theatre. In true fringe style fashion, they have found a novel way of reminding us to leave all expectations at the door. No specific details about this production are offered to the audience before the performances. Their intention, “ re-capture the mystery, tension and anticipation of the return of live fringe theatre…”. In this case, they also boast that no two shows will be the same. This review, therefore, must paint a less vivid picture of what you might expect from this production for the benefit of your experience. Once you have seen the show, keeping their secrets makes you implicit in the storytelling.

Shaking us out of the sheltered lives we have been enduring over the last year, this concept shrouded in mystery offered by Proforca supports the human need for storytelling without the world of marketing dictating and preparing us for what we are about to receive. The most satisfying stories we tell each other in our day to day lives are often the least expected, the ones that shake up our day with laughter, shock or excitement. AAAAA is a sensitive and generous offering to audiences from a well-oiled team that does just that written by David Brady, Jack Albert Cook, Gabrielle Nellis-Pain and Kim Scopes, directed by Jess Barton and David Brady and with a committed performance from Daniel Rainford. 

Despite some difficulty from my seat up the back regarding sight-lines for parts of the action, the Lion & Unicorn’s black box theatre makes for a perfect intimate setting for this work along with a simple yet transformative set design and immersive soundscape. 

Right from the opening, Rainford draws the audience in with an unsettling energy making it feel like the work can take us anywhere, as the tag line suggests “Anyone. Anywhere. Anyplace. Anytime. Anything”. Physically, subtle shifts of tension, his gaze and his relationship to space demonstrate his ability to paint vast landscapes on stage.

The planting of seeds of information then revisiting them in different forms is a haunting and visceral convention of the work. Pieces of the story unfold as they transition between text, imagery and physicality. This makes it feel like, as the audience, you are suspended amongst fragments of the main characters memories and physical self for both you and the actor to collide with. 

This ambiguity and mystery so strongly set up in AAAAA, however, has room to go further. The play seems to go from being incredibly elusive as it slowly builds the story to over-explaining all of a sudden. This occasionally makes it feel like the work jumps between two different plays and perhaps calls for slightly more balance and interrogation into the power of unanswered questions and trust.

The joy of sitting in a dark theatre full of other audience members, experiencing something all the same time, is a power I have sorely missed. Proforca Theatre Company and The Lion & Unicorn Theatre have made the return back to a place so many of us love a truly enjoyable one.

This is a "Pay What You Feel" performance running from the 18th to 29th of May.

Review by Stephanie Osztreicher

Rating: ★★★

Seat: D3 | Price of Ticket: Pay what you feel

Photo credit:Proforca (the “hand") and Ross Kernahan (the photo of Daniel Rainford)
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