Written for Spoonfed. Originally published on 25 April, 2013
Dream-like narratives don’t work so well for espionage dramas.
Performer Lucy Ellinson of Jane Packman Company is without a doubt one of the best storytellers. But the story she tells in A Thousand Shards of Glass is nowhere near as smart and sophisticated as she is.
In a darkened room, sitting around a circle of lights an audience of about thirty sit facing each other as Ellinson tells us about her part in a mad-cap espionage mission involving all the usual suspects. There are safe houses, dodgy taxi drivers and a spell in North Africa. There’s violence and impending danger. There are slick, strong women and helpful teams of supporting characters bravely using their skills and risking their lives for some unknown greater good.
In fact, there’s a lot that’s unknown in this story and we’re supposed to enjoy the ephemeral, dream-like narrative without getting too bogged down in the beginning, middle and end of it all. There is, for example, a bit that involves us, the audience trampling over the Arctic circle and a bit about a moody cat, a little girl and a campfire. These are moods and atmospheres that Ellinson creates briefly for us to take whatever we want from, and through the show she gives each of us a part: “you’re my pilot,” she says, although it’s just a label to hold, not really a part to play.
There’s something fascinating and creative about manipulating the mind with language, great sound design and a beguiling performer. But it also feels odd to root this idea in a sci-fi espionage thriller. The genre calls for mystery, heightened emotions and a good conclusion but the style of the show leans on the idea of imagination and the unknown too much.
Image by Chris Keenan