Talented emerging company Ephemeral Ensemble’s Offstage explores the loneliness of the theatre, in this debut production at the Pleasance Dome. It’s not perfect, but a worthy watch created by people whose future work I’m keen to follow.
A devised physical theatre offering from the Ephemeral Ensemble, Offstage tells a story of actors (played by Ramon Ayres & Rob Evison) in and out of the spotlight – and highlights the dramatic difference between smiles put on when the audience is watching and the extreme loneliness its possible to feel after the curtain call. The topic of mental health within the theatre community is one that urgently needs to be brought into focus and Fringe, with many (aspiring) performers in the audience, is a perfect place for Ephemeral Ensemble to try and do so
Offstage is the group’s first full-length production, co-directed by founders Eygló Belafonte & Ramon Ayres. The idea to tell the story of loneliness and suicidal thoughts is ambitious for anyone, but Ephemeral Ensemble are on good track to succeed. The physicality of the piece ensures that what is communicated is emotion, rather than thoughts. This works to the story’s advantage because such loneliness and overall darkness can rarely ever be put in words, especially into any accessible to audience members who may have never experienced anything similar. In that respect, the form of physical theatre is aptly chosen.
Ephemeral Ensemble’s decision not to stick to the principles of pure physical theatre and instead include sparse dialogue every now and then is less effective though. This practice does not reveal much of significance about the characters or situation – on the contrary, breaking the code of communication that was established at the beginning distances the audience from the two men on stage.
The other flaw, perhaps, is one around pacing – the “happy” scenes, in particular, fast become slightly repetitive. The first sequence (where the two performers enter the big stage through a very small maquette of the proscenium arch) is hilarious, but many of the following light-hearted moments don’t have a strong enough comedic element to entertain the audience. The humour in physical comedy often comes from opposites (such as the big person/small proscenium arch setup), which is exactly what many of the “happy” scenes are missing.
On the other hand, lonely scenes are beautifully handled. The acting, the music, the mood, the props, the connection with the audience – it’s all there. These are the scenes that make Offstage a worthy watch. Overall, it’s a promising first show from the Ephemeral Ensemble and bravely faces into an important topic. You won’t regret watching it and supporting this talented, developing company.
The performance was created with support from the PAPYRUS – Prevention of Young Suicide, and L.A.S (Life After Suicide) charities.