Review: Toby Thompson 'I Wish I Was A Mountain' at Egg Theatre Bath
Posted on: 2018-10-05
There was enough magic to bring life to the experience without diluting the narrative. The show was accessible on so many levels, there was a feeling of ‘we are all in this together’ regardless of age, intellect, or ability.
If you were granted a wish to be anything you wanted to be, what you would you wish for? My visit to the theatre sparked some interesting thoughts. I visited the Egg Theatre- part of the Theatre Royal in Bath to catch Toby Thompson’s latest show, ‘I wish I was a Mountain’. A show written by the poet himself, Toby Thompson, Directed by Lee Lyford, and on this particular night, was performed alongside Donna Williams, the sign poet, for the first time in the shows running. The show is an experiment by the writer, to present a show written for children that tackles some fun philosophical conversations and topics. Life, self, love, want and need.
The show was based on an old fairy tale by a German writer, Hermann Hesse. The original story was called ‘Faldum’ and set the backdrop for Tobys narrative. ‘I wish I was a mountain’ takes the audience through the lovely countryside of this fairy tale into the busy village fair of Faldum, where all the townsfolk gathered to enjoy the wares and fun that rolled into town. We are transposed into the fai by the magic of theatre and given a front row seat to the bustle of the affair, the mystery and excitement peaked as we were introduced to the hall of mirrors and an old man granting wishes. We watched the wishes granted and watch as the wishes escalated in grandeur until we ended up with a disappearing violinist and a grand wish worthy of its own show title. The show works in and out of some interesting introspection as the main character lives with the reality of his wish. We witness over a millions years of his wish before time unties his bond to it.
The show was written for a young audience in mind, adults welcome. Toby Thompson and Donna Williams catered to the 7+ demographic well during the performance, all the while managing to keep the adults glued into the action. Having the two performers presenting the show both orally and visually kept the audience connected throughout the story in so many ways. The two worked well together on stage, their chemistry created a warm platform for spontaneity and light hearted banter. I can see why the younger audience would be arrested by the two animating such a potentially dense subject with effortless style. As we walked into the theatre, Toby was sat at a piano playing along to a vinyl record. These two elements, the recorded music, and live performance, helped bring the magic of Faldum to life.
The set design was nothing short of magical. Toby sat by the piano, Donna sat down by one of the speakers surrounded by small unassuming houses. Little did we know that as the performers opened up the story the stage would come to life. The first piece of theatre saucery saw one house turn into 5 as each house revealed another small house inside of it like Russian nesting dolls. One house, once tipped on its head poured sand out of its shimney to mark out the path to the fair. Other houses revealed some surprises under their roofs, such as beacons. The designer Anisha Fields, created a brilliant set, where light and sounds design were able to create the magic necessary to bring this story to life. A part of me got excited every time either of the performers approached a house.
I have always been a fan of mentally and spiritually stimulating text, on the page and on the stage. I am very aware that the themes the creators of this show were looking to tackle are often densely articulated, I was curious as to how it would be presented. I was not disappointed. There was enough magic to bring life to the experience without diluting the narrative. The show was accessible on so many levels, there was a feeling of ‘we are all in this together’ regardless of age, intellect, or ability. A quote from Kate Cross in the programme stood out for me in relation to the performance, she made reference to the assumptions children have that if something has been created intentionally there is a meaning and so they follow assuming the dots connect. I feel this can sometimes be true for adults, thankfully we all walked away from the show having connected a few dots of our own.
‘Silence is the destiny of music ... Old age is the destiny of youth’ - Toby Thompson
Saili Katebe is a Poet and Spoken word artist who fell in love with Bristol's creative underbelly. He enjoys tasting everything the city has to offer to the curious heart, eyes, ears and mind. If he is not taking to the stage he is in the crowd enjoying art in all its forms.