The gift of digital theatre allows me to review a couple of shows from the theatre in my home town of Oldham his week, and An Acorn by Caridad Svich is the first one. It is a cross-channel co-production between Impel Theatre and the Oldham Coliseum; first performed in 2017 in North America and now reimagned for the digital space.
A four-hander performed on Zoom, this is a poem-play about many things: the loss of a voice, a climate collapsing, an aching void. It is the morning after a disaster, 9am, and the people we see are looking to move on against the towering bank of despair. There is no story as such beyond these initial perameters; this is more about how people relate to the world around them. The words are raw. beautiful, and above all, hopeful.
Two of the actors, Canadians Ryan G Hinds and Blythe Haines, have fully rehearsed their parts, with their Greater Manchester colleagues Darren Jeffries and Mina Anwar coming to the piece fairly cold with a few prompts. It gives An Acorn a sense of immediacy and unpredicability that a fully rehearsed and planned piece might not have. An element of danger, if you will, a touch of the unknown.
Under Kendra Jones’s direction, in their seperate Zoom spaces, all four actors give a fine reading of Svich’s script, the conversation, the concerns. The audience is invited to interact through Instagram by sharing their “pandemic selfies” and following the show hashtag. This creates the feeling of inclusivity and of being part of a collective, sharing in a ninety-minute piece together.
There is also a sound file audience members are sent to accompany the performance. This replaces the score which played on stage when An Acorn was first performed and is a slow, hypnotic piece with short stretches of silence. Play low and it feels like a cushion for the characters and their fears, imaginings and normality. I have listened to it a couple of times since the performance and it is quietly meditative and calming.
Performed in Canada and England and live, An Acorn feels unforced and brings four disparate characters into one space. They are together, although apart. Their voices blend, their words fit together like jigsaw pieces. We see their faces on the screen (and some of their faces and those watching on social media, should we wish to join in), and can tune in and out of the words being spoken, focusing on the sentences which resonate the most.
This is a piece which stretches what a theatre piece at home can achieve. It might have felt more interactive were more audience members involved, or if some Instagram videos were included during the performance as well as photographic posts, but I liked the idea behind the feeling you are not just an observer of a live stream but perhaps a part of it as it unfolds.
An Acorn streamed live on 6 May 2021, and will be available on demand from 7-17 May: book here.
LouReviews received complimentary access to review An Acorn Live.