BWW Review: COUNTING SHEEP, VAULT Festival
Mark and Marichka Marczyk fought in the Kiev Uprising of 2014. They witnessed death, injustice, and dictatorship first hand before they decided to tell their story on stage.
Joined in their venture by the founders of Belarus Free Theatre Natalia Kaliada and Nicolai Khalezin, they're taking audiences right to the middle of the action with Counting Sheep, an immersive production based on their experiences in Ukraine.
A show where the use of phones is not only allowed but encouraged for the sake of #StagingARevolution, it's as urgent as it is emotional. Offering three types of tickets ranging from full-involvement to simple observation, the public becomes part of something bigger and life-changing.
The piece is all-enveloping and even those who prefer not to participate never feel neglected to the advantage of those who are essentially put to work to set up and partake in the revolution.
The initial bubbly and cheery vibe where dinner is shared among those who sit at the table (which adds a sensory level to everybody's experience) is quickly turned upside down into raging violence. The dining room is dismantled and barricades rise in a chaotic and loud whirlpool of fear.
Traditional Ukrainian songs and dances become screams and guerrilla training in a heartbeat with directional magic. Just like the Marczyks, the participating audience is faced with confusion and dread while bombs resound loudly and the actors scuttle them around.
Projections (curated by Josh Pharo) are crucial to the show: the images of the country shown at the start are followed by videos of riots and help to transport the plot to the streets of Kiev. Everything is built around making the crowd (regardless of the type of ticket they've bought) feel part of the movement.
Feverish agency and political message take hold and the unwavering and tireless company succeeds in sharing a heartwarming sense of belonging. A timely production that tugs the heartstrings of a London who's facing an identity crisis, Counting Sheep tells the horrors of a nation that was denied the right to choose while celebrating life and love.
Photo credit: Nicolai Khalezin