From a stage of polar tiles sitting like tessellated mini icebergs, lamps of different heights scattered across it, watching the performance attentively like illuminated metal meerkats, a lone actress addresses the audience.
Well, she’s not entirely alone. Nearby lies a gaunt, forlorn-looking hound; whippet, lurcher, greyhound, I’m not sure, but one of those breeds with a perennially sad expression that always looks as though it could do with a good meal.
Furry companion bedded down on a casually strewn coat, the actress, Laura Cubitt, sets off on a journey of memory, listing and linking images of nature in a tone somewhere between wonder and matter of fact, reaching out to the audience as though the creatures and climates she recollects are just beyond her fingertips’ grasp.
Apples slowly rotting at the rear of a garden, starlings flocking, a fox on a fence, a rotting whale; some images evoke nostalgia, others set the imagination racing. But as Cubitt continues – lights flickering and fading, clouds passing on suspended screens, bird song, wind and less obviously recognisable sounds combining to create the accompanying soundscape – that link between memory, most vividly of childhood, and nature becomes ever more clear.
As her tone turns to one of regret it forces the question “What have we lost?” Are these memories just nostalgia for a rose-tinted past or are those vivid images of nature really becoming the stuff of a near-forgotten time? Will our children have their own memories dominated by flora and fauna or will they fondly remember the bright colours of HDTV? Did those images ever exist in the first place or are they feats of our imagination?
Above Me The Wide Blue Sky doesn’t have the answers. It barely asks the questions, just gives a quiet prod of persuasion in a theatre that looks chilly but feels warm, safe and comforting, the kind of place a dog could happily sleep for half an hour, which he does.