Monday, 26 March 2012

"Can you sing?" A Thousand Shards of Glass at AE Harris

Strictly, A Thousand Shards of Glass is a one-woman show - an immersive storytelling experience driven by Lucy Ellinson's compelling performance. However, it provokes a sense of collective memory and nostalgia for childhood storytelling that makes it feel packed with characters and warmth. Clever devices mean that engagement is never onerous while the audience is still place firmly at the center of the story. A single layer of seating, in a circle, suggests a camp fire, playing a game or sharing a meal, and the work played with each of these, and more, over its course. 

Like nostalgic retellings of childhood, the narrative seems episodic - leaps in location and mood keep the tempo up, but sacrifice some overall coherence in the process. There is a feel that some heavy workshopping was involved somewhere down the line, although writing is credited to Ben Pacey only. The flights of fancy, dramatic set pieces and rapidly changing locations owe a debt to modern action films, but without the visuals that help to make sense of things in that context Lewis Gibson's superb sound design helps gamely to tie it all together.

More conspicuous than the action, however, are numerous literary and cinematic references, from Frankenstein to The Matrix, and Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials trilogy to Die Hard: With a Vengance. By weaving together strands of familiar stories, Pacey has created a tapestry that should hold more than one touchstone for any audience member. When the heroine is enlisted to save humanity, she is asked only if she can sing. A Thousand Shards of Glass is a humble contribution for this song for humanity, a song of stories where the singer is backed up by every snippet of half-remembered narrative that lingers in their consciousness. Whilst it is a one-woman show, the circle of audience members cannot help but sing along as they retell their stories to themselves.

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