Reviews OWE & Fringe Published 1 January 2015

The Possible Impossible House

Barbican Theatre ⋄ 17th-28th December 2014

Totally carbifan

Alice Saville

Iona, aged nine, consented to do a joint review of this performance after a lengthy discussion as to whether doing so would make her famous, and what her fee would be (the answers to both points were somewhat disappointing).

We had a large amount of speculation on the way to the theatre because unlike our previous trips (Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Cinderella, Puss in Boots and Matilda) there was no handy book to consult for forewarning of what was going to happen. Some of Iona’s wilder ideas included “an upside down house with a bed on the ceiling that maybe you would sleep in with magnets.” Here’s an edited version of our post-show discussion of this quiet, challenging, and “carbifan” new piece from Forced Entertainment.

Alice: On the train home the first thing you said you was that the house wasn’t as impossible as you thought it would be.

Iona: Yes, the house was quite impossible but it didn’t have really impossible things. Like if you went into the house and it became a tiny space and you were huge and you were fitting in there. Or if you had a bed on the roof and people did somersaults to get there.

Alice: But The Possible Impossible House was quite different from other shows we’ve seen. Can you explain how?

Iona: Well the stage wasn’t as big and everything was projected onto cardboard. The people on stage were telling the story, it wasn’t actors acting it out. One other thing that makes it different was that the girl on stage was making all the sounds, which you don’t normally have in a play.

Alice: She also interrupted Robin a lot, who was trying to tell the story and holding up the pieces of cardboard for the projections, which were a mixture of photographs and solemn, scratchy drawings by visual artist Vlatka Horvat.

Iona: She had a keyboard to make sounds too. At the beginning she got asked to make a strange sound and then she said “I think this might be a bit too strange. I think it might be spooky.” And he said no. She kept interrupting the story.

I really liked the part where the mouse came peeking from behind the curtain and she said she said “Can I do what the mouse says” and Robin said “Do you know what the mouse says” and she said “No”. And he said “I think it’s better if I say it because I know what it says.”

Alice: She was also really inventive with the tools she used to make sounds, including wine glasses, sandpaper and a toy megaphone. I liked the bit where she had to make the sound effect for a mouse chewing gum and she ate three sticks of celery at once into the microphone, and then she went behind the curtain and made choking noises.

Iona: And she thought she was allergic to celery. But because when she was sick after the celery, she missed the part with the mouse. She said “Will the mouse come back, Robin” and he said “No” and she said “But he might be lonely.” He said “No, he has all his mouse friends at home.”

Alice: Was it a funny play?

Iona: It was more like they were telling us a nice story. But there was one really funny bit where Robin suddenly said “Aaarrgghhhhhh, I can’t take it anymore” when it got too sad, and the girl said “Shall I take over from you Robin” and then she said “Robin likes to be a big crybaby because he thinks it makes him look more like a real actor.”

Alice: What did you think of having the characters of Robin and Cathy telling the story? Would you have preferred seeing it acted out?

Iona: Maybe have actors performing it?

Alice: But then you wouldn’t have had Cathy interrupting Robin as he tells the story.

Iona: Yes, but the story could still be told and when she interrupted the actors they would freeze.

Alice: But what about the rhino?

Iona: They might have a real rhino on stage.

Alice: That would be expensive, and messy.

Iona: Ok well they could make a huge teddy bear rhino with people under the stage making it move with sticks. Like when his head goes up they’d have a stick under it.

Alice:  What didn’t you like about the show?

Iona: That they didn’t have a halfway break, because I like halfway breaks because you can get an ice cream to eat and settle down to watch the rest of the show.

Alice: Was it too long to sit still?

Iona: No, I just like halfway breaks. And one other thing, I didn’t like the bit where we were running through the corridors and it seemed to go on forever and ever. It got a bit boring.

Alice: They were quite weird the corridors: the images looked they came from a hospital, or an abandoned factory.

Iona: Also they were the same four corridors, which once they finished they started going through them again. And I thought they would meet more humans, it was just toys and drawings.

And also I still think it would be better having ice creams in the halfway break.

Alice: I know, I feel the same way. Who do you think would like this show?

Iona: I think maybe little children would like the rhino part and the soldiers part. Maybe also children my age would like it too. They would enjoy the magical key part and that she kept interrupting Robin.

Alice: Do you think she and Robin know each other in real life? Did one of them write it?

Iona: [Laughs] Don’t ask me questions like that because I don’t know who ever wrote any play in the world.

Alice: Ok. Do you know a lot about theatre?

Iona: Not a lot but I’ve seen many plays.

Alice: How many?

Iona: It’s too hard to picture but probably loads. This year… that will take a while to calculate. Can you give me a moment. [pause] Um, this is gonna take a while because there are so many. [counts] Ok, it’s three plays this year but I am sure I’m going to be seeing more. I really love theatre. I am in a drama club at school and we are going to be doing Aladdin. I’m lady in waiting two. At one point there’s going to be liquorice thrown at us and we get to eat it. [Long digression on school play follows, as well as a rendition of her pivotal line “I don’t know what all the fuss is about.”]

One other thing is, I have one of my friends in drama who is lady in waiting three called Celine. Acting companions are important because we have to wait a really long time to get on stage so we bring games to take the time away. Please can we make sure we put Celine in the article? Can I print it out and bring it into school?

Alice: Ok I’ll make sure. But what will people say when they read our review?

Iona: They’ll probably read through it carefully and think for a while, whether they want to see it or not.

Alice: Ok. And if you had to do a concluding line how would you sum it up?

Iona: I don’t think I can do that it’s too big and amazing to sum up.

Alice: What words would you use to describe it?

Iona: Is there such a word as carbifan? I don’t think anyone will know what that is. I made it as an abbreviation so it can be just one word that means cardboard fantastic. In a longer sentence that would be “it was fantastic how they projected it onto cardboard.”

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Alice Saville

Alice is editor of Exeunt, as well as working as a freelance arts journalist for publications including Time Out, Fest and Auditorium magazine. Follow her on Twitter @Raddington_B

The Possible Impossible House Show Info


Directed by Tim Etchells

Cast includes Richard Lowden, Cathy Naden

Link http://www.barbican.org.uk/theatre/event-detail.asp?ID=16292

Running Time 1 hour 20 minutes

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