There are two expanses into which humankind has gazed for millennia: the vast darkness of space and the depths of the blue sea. The Big Blue is about reaching out into the emptiness and the surprising things that will reach back to you.
Originate is an ensemble of early career theatre-makers (Erin Middleton, Olivia Niethe, Jacob Parker, Demitra Sealy, Charmaine Sharp, Adam Stepfner, Sophie Strykowski, Kevin Tran, Jessie Trompp, Anna Williamson, and JoJo Zhou) who, with the direction of Nick Atkins, set out to understand the literal and metaphorical meanings of the deep. Constructed like a constellation, the Big Blue combined theatrical forms like drama and dance with other artistic forms that more closely resemble installation art or literature. Structured as a guided tour complete with flight attendants, an audio guide, and a traveller’s pack, the production encourages the audience to ask themselves what the deep means to them; what it means to be small in the face of something so big.
After being directed to your seat by an attendant, the journey into the deep begins. With an audio guide transmitted to each audience member’s wireless headphones, this adventure is two stories at once: one is a submarine trip into the ocean lead by Razza, and the other is a 9-month voyage into space lead by an AI guide. They overlap and intermingle, finding similarities between the great expanses that stimulate existential comedy and feelings of awe in equal measure.
The Big Blue is an example of when the content of the production is perfectly married to its form. Audience members received anonymous letters like messages in a bottle or lost radio signals bouncing between spacecraft creating an odd sense of connection, something like unearned intimacy. Then there was the sensation of sitting amongst a crowd with everyone tuned to a different audio channel, disrupting the concept of a shared experience by taking us away from physical space. These swirling feelings of uncertainty and familiarity, connection and distance, are a beautiful conceptualisation of the human condition and the unanswerable questions one faces when confronting something as enormous, as overwhelming, as space or the deep ocean.
At the same time, the production was light and playful. The audio guides were laugh-out-loud funny and the ensemble performed with a contagious silliness. There was a wonderful attention to detail from the interpretive dancing during waiting periods to the overly enthusiastic attendants handing out boats and airplanes like hot towels. Yet, at no point did the production lose sight of its deeply moving premise.
The Big Blue is a phenomenally joyous theatrical experience that will leave you feeling like you can carry the great unknown gently.
The Big Blue is running at the Joan from October 14th – 17th
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