Inspired by the Fukushima nuclear disaster, this new play by Japanese writer Toshiki Okada (devised and adapted by the company) is full of foreboding and creeping unease, as five women from ‘the village’ react to the arrival of a sinister blue cloud. Four are members of a choir, and are tightly bound to each other until a fifth woman, a woman no one knows, joins them. There are rumours that the cloud heralds the destruction of the entire village. Should they believe the rumours or not? Should they stay or should they leave? And who is this ‘Hannah’, really? As fear tightens its grip and the community starts to fracture, it becomes clear that what you choose to believe can have serious consequences.
FellSwoop’s spare and precise production is well suited to the slightly austere setting of a crisp new space at the refurbished Library – the eerie tale is conjured expertly from words, music and bodies in space. The use of song and vocal harmonies reinforce the text’s exploration of cohesion, how being so in tune with those around you can reduce your ability to accept change, to hear other voices, especially when they question what is being ignored.
That the actors sit amongst the audience reminds us that a performance creates a temporary community; when they begin to hum or vocalise responses to the narrative, the sound could be coming from all of us – as ‘the crowd’, we too are complicit.
Quietly gripping and thoroughly unsettling, it climbs inside you, this piece, like the best examples of sci-fi in which the monster is revealed to have been within all along.
Belinda Dillon, critic