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Ragnarok — Review

Ragnarok at the Byre Theatre previewed on Friday 23 February.

By all means an unconventional show, it used hand-made clay figures used and filmed in live action by puppeteers and performers to narrate a thought-provoking and moving narrative. The story follows a young girl, Aya, and her brother, on a journey away from a dystopian world, in the hope of finding a better future in a promised land.

Directed by Alex Bird, produced by Emma Stewart-Jones, and performed by Jessica Innes, Emily Nicholl, Dylan Read, and Jim Harbourne, the show tests the bounds of what is traditionally deemed a theatrical work, presenting audiences with emotion and storytelling through an emphasis on voice acting, and cinematography; the story is told through live camera work and pre-recorded voices, a highly creative take on traditional storytelling in theatre.

The set is undoubtedly one of the highlights of this show; it is dynamic to an impressive extent, a single circle in the middle of the stage initially being used as a space where a miniature city is built before our eyes by performers, which breaks up as the story progresses into different fragments. The production quality of the show ensures that the message of hope, endurance, and the will to survive comes across powerfully to audiences — the amount of care and dedication that went into the organisation of all clay figures and set-pieces used in the play must be applauded.

Interestingly, the only time that individual actors performed scenes, as opposed to narrative progression through clay figures, was to represent animalistic figures and gods, while the audience understood human stories and figures in a rather detached manner. 

The use of clay figures to represent human characters, though creative, made for less of an emotional impact. While this heightened the significance of voice-acting in the show, theatre-goers must prepare themselves for an experience that pushes them out of their comfort zones in terms of what they are familiar with in theatre. Audience members will not be able to empathise to the same extent with clay figures as they can with actors, but the amount of creativity and effort put into the figures, the miniature world, and the dynamic set must be commended. The nature of the performance, which heightens the smallness of characters in an unjust world, has the quality of estranging the audience from what it knows, and asking demanding questions about the human will to persevere in a damaged world.

The excellent production quality of the show must be commended, with unimaginable hours of work having gone into the production of the hand-made clay figures on display, and the on-stage recording and assortment of the figures. Watching Ragnarok was not a conventional theatrical experience, but a demanding one. The show asks for the attention and careful consideration of pressing and relevant topics of nihilism and perseverance, challenging audience members in terms of both thought and emotion.

Photo by Mihaela Bodlovic

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