Creator/Director: Jen Hayes
Writer/Composer: Ailis Ni Riain
Reviewer: John Roberts
The Public Reviews Rating:
Treasured is billed as “A ground breaking, site specific, large-scale multimedia theatrical event.” This latest production from Jen Hayes and Cut to the Chase productions certainly doesn’t lack ambition, producing a site specific piece on a scale that befits the memory of RMS Titanic and the tragic loss of life on board is no easy task. By placing the production in the vast and cavernous main body of the Anglican Cathedral the production certainly gains the perfect backdrop, lit with precision and creating a haunting atmosphere Phil Saunders’ lighting design proves to be one of the productions strongest elements.
Hayes has a difficult task trying to bring something original to the already over told story of RMS Titanic, unfortunately she fails to really bring the lives of the people on board the ship to life, the text also by the shows composer Ailis Ni Riain is so heavy and laden with facts and figures, that we don’t really connect emotionally to the characters being shown. Yes there are unearthed facts that have not really been told before, but the cast struggle against the rather two dimensional construct of their characters and fight constantly with microphone problems; however it is ultimately the lack of hope and overly drawn out melancholy of their plights that makes treasured a rather bleak evening.
The strength of the production however lies in the enormous scale of the projections which have been cleverly designed, to fill and engulf its audience, the bow of the Titanic swooping over the heads of the audience of particular highlight. Alilis Ni Riain’s original composition for a lone trumpet player, performed live by Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra’s Brendan Ball adds a strong layer to proceedings, the simplicity cuts through the evening perfectly.
A tragic and rather beautiful aerial ballet created by Wired Aeriel Theatre stands out strong amongst a multitude of visual delights; however it felt very much as an addition rather than an integral part of the whole evening and this is where the production falls down. Having your audience walk through the cathedral through dimly lit corridors and seeing emotional vignettes is not groundbreaking, like wise large scale projections and aeriel ballet is not groundbreaking, it is all too easy to fall for the spectacle of an event of such scale.
Credit is duly given to Hayes and Cut the Chase for bringing Titanic back to a region that is so often neglected from the history of the doomed ship, but when you can’t connect to the characters, when the story being told is weak and when the elements don’t truly blend as a coherent whole, then you are left embarking on a voyage that ultimately like that of RMS Titanic leads in disappointment.