By Anoka Latchmiah
Guy Butler Auditorium, the largest venue of the National Arts Festival, fosters enraptured murmurings within the crowd. Children gawk at the sheer size of the theatre, while their parents ponder the content of the show. Audience members wriggle in their seats as they await the gasp-inducing spectacle of Castaways.
Coalescing traditional circus acts with physical theatre, Castaways features five eccentric characters. They are the mortified captain, the dazzling showgirl, the deckhand, the showgirl’s assistant, and the bride who is still wearing her wedding dress. These characters are thrust together through a series of misfortunes and are forced to reconcile their relationships with themselves and each other in their anchored pursuit of survival.
A source of amusement for the audience, though calamitous for the characters, is that none of them speak the same language. This language barrier is indicative of the relationship that the characters have with one another in the beginning of the show. They are mistrusting and cautious of each other. However, as the performance develops, the characters begin to communicate with each other through physical acts.
As they traverse their harrowing voyage, they reach a mutual understanding. Nestled between this discovery are coruscating acrobatic interludes. These involve aerial silks, poles and suspended hoops. The audience are left laughing between spells of reverence for the provocative themes that this production delves into, as well as for the talent that the performers display. They engage with life-threatening situations, and captivate the audience through these dangerous means. The life raft that the characters travel on becomes a metaphorical vessel of the fight for survival in a world devoid of hope. The production touches on themes of migration, despair and ultimately, courage.
The contribution of sound effects frames the narrative of the performance, where the scoring evokes particular emotions and memories unanimously found amongst the audience. Within the ensemble, each performer maintains a powerful delivery, whether it be acrobatic work or acting. Compounding excellence that is ubiquitous amongst the cast, coupled with nuances found within the narrative, makes Castaways an undeniable hit and an essential part of this year’s Festival.