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Review of Flash Festival 2016: Forever Looking Up by Illicit Theatre at Castle Hill URC

For the first ten minutes of Forever Looking Up from Illicit Theatre, I have to admit I wasn't really enjoying it. It was admittedly bold and clever to have us enter in near darkness and the truly superb set did create a wonderful atmosphere. However much of the early part of the story of these fives journey to Mars One to colonise was attempted to be told through physical theatre. Now anyone who has read my reviews in the past will know absolutely that I love it, these are the moments in theatre where the hairs on my neck truly stand up. For me though, a lot of the early part of this in Forever Looking Up feels unnecessary and added simply because they can do it (and this group sure can). I would never have suggested that it be gone altogether though, just toned down a bit.

However when the story is allowed to evolve a little more relaxed in movement, this play for me becomes something really very special. It helps that this cast features a few of the best from the year group. We have in charge of the group Harvey Arlington (Charlie Clee) and Jessica Bromstein (Sharni Topako-Brown), both controlling yet also subtly weak in this alien world they are so unfamiliar with.

I have long been a fan of Charlie's work and he was one of a few that even twenty five months ago in that first year performance who was very noticeable. Here he is more quiet a character than those recently seen, here there is little comedy or viciousness that we have seen him do so well before and while I prefer his performance in that area more. He does still manage to carry off this role quite impressively.

Sharni however for me in this is a revelation once again and is quite simply superb. Until Welcome to Thebes, I personally had not noticed her work that much in the shows, but if Thebes was for me, and maybe Sharni, the breakthrough point, Forever Looking Up pushes that break even further. She commands this show and those moments of tense and emotional significance were outstanding.

Sophie Guiver also brings a greater depth as well to her cold and manipulative role of Zoe Blackwell, very much the story initiator and a character of many layers, mostly sinister, that Sophie brilliantly leaks out. Those repeating scenes as they look out at Earth far away are quite creepy and so, so coldly played.

Last but not least are Lily Haywood (Yolanda Lake) and Kaseem X (Vandreas Marc), also holding characters of depth, both victims of false accusations from Zoe, with Kaseem in particular victim of an evil suggestion. They are, as are all the cast great.

So this is very much a show that grew considerably on me once it had got over its slightly obsessive movement based ideas and got deep into the characters and the story. It is a very strong story with clever ideas and rounded characters. It is from conversation a little ambiguous over its story resolution if you happen to miss something vital at the end. However I don't believe I missed anything myself and am very glad that I didn't miss the magnificent Forever Looking Up.


The Flash Festival 2016 runs between Monday 16th and Saturday 21st May, 2016 at four venues across the town. Details can be found at http://ftfevents.wix.com/flashtheatre2016

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