Forest full of adventure awaits inside DanceEast

AT the very heart of the forest there’s a place where things aren’t quite what they seem. Well, except for the trees on stage; they’re actually real. But we’ll get to that.

People become animals, birds become music, day becomes night, Fevered Sleep’s revival of previous project The Forest is full of adventure.

Having toured the UK and, most recently, Australia; the three-strong cast invite five-year-olds and over to experience the sights, sounds and emotions of the outdoors only indoors.

Conkers, pine cones and leaves fall from the sky. Then there are the 18-plus real trees - a mix of birch, ash, pine and western hemlock - dotted around the gold metal set and audience area with mirrors making them disappear up into the sky.

A good idea on paper but...

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“Making a touring set out of gold metal and real trees is an absolute nightmare,” laughs David Harradine, artistic director and co-founder of Fevered Sleep as well as this show’s co-director and co-designer.

“It looks very beautiful but it takes two days to put it into each venue. It’s a really major commitment, but we feel very strongly that children deserve the best quality work you can make available to them. So we really pushed the boat out.”

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David and co-director Sam Butler played around with many ideas to bring the beautiful, natural atmosphere they needed to tell their story into a theatre setting.

They filled a rehearsal room with soil, burying the performers inside it. Wooden chairs, tables and ladders were hung from the ceiling to create an abstract forest. In the end, the simplest of ideas proved the best.

“We thought maybe we’re trying to make it too complicated. In the end we realised the most beautiful thing about forests are the trees. The bark, the texture, the smell, the variety.”

Held together by a simple story, the show is a part theatre, part dance piece that explores the physical and emotional landscape of forests - real and fairytale - through music, dance, light and sound.

“It’s very much about creating an atmosphere for the audience who are are incredibly close to the stage; the furthest anybody is from it is probably about five feet or something. So it’s very intimate and, hopefully, the children in the audience get a strong sense of being part of the journey the performers are going on.”

The Forest plays at Ipswich’s Jerwood DanceHouse today and tomorrow.

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