The Heaps

Wed 20th February 2013

reviews

Hannah Barber

at 10:07 on 21st Feb 2013

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Staged in the Norman Chapel, deep in the drafty bowels of the Castle, The Heaps crashed into life with a frenzied energy that endured until the very end. Written and directed by the immensely talented Joe Skelton, the play follows a group of child scavengers who rummage for treasure every day, each night gathering together to show and trade the precious objects they have discovered in the waste. It had the perfect setting, a shadowy stone vault of a room which effectively captured the claustrophobic atmosphere of the slums and the dark dealings of its inhabitants. With the audience encircling the performance space, this sense of oppression was ingeniously compounded, and the characters physically trapped amongst the piles of rubbish, plastic bags and tin cans, which littered the ground. As testament to the powerful and compelling acting from all fronts, as the play progressed this junk transformed in my mind into wondrous articles, the glittering riches which the characters themselves perceived them as.

Kaleep (Tim Blore) begins the play explosively, weaving in and out of the pillars, running frenetically round in circles, ecstatically throwing rubbish into the air and whispering to it in a Gollum-esque manner. He had an incredible energy and an endearing vulnerability, presenting the scavenger’s world to us through the eyes of a child, where sounds, sights and smells are overwhelming, and where as an audience we felt the united urge to pick him up and save him from his surroundings. When Blanky (Hebe Beardsall), a girl from the city, intrudes upon his foraging, there is a moment of excellent physical acting where they face off like two cautious animals, displaying nervous movements and twitchy body language. When Kaleep asks her to stay for the trading that night, we are introduced to the other three ‘finders’, Bokie (Jenny Hobbiss), Speef (Will Hockedy) and their leader Three (Ruby Lawrence), who become instantly familiar and are very comical.

When night falls, there is a brilliantly primal, Stomp inspired story-telling scene – the highlight of the entire play. We are plunged into darkness and the scavengers begin dancing, hitting pillars and mental bins in a rhythmic crescendo, creating a cacophony of sounds that echo through the chamber. They each fall into rhyme as they tell their story, a clever addition by Joe Skelton, as it superbly aids the pervasive feeling of tribal ritual. The use of lighting is wonderful, with the only illumination coming from the head lights and torches worn by the actors; you catch flashes of movement, glimpses of objects, and this completes the effect of primitive confusion. It is also a scene of comical bartering, where the characters reveal mundane items such as crunchie bars, cushions and hairdryers, and claim them to have extraordinary powers.

When Blanky steals Kaleep’s object in the night and runs away, Hebe Beardsall gives an intense and tormented performance, revealing the troubles of her home life and her desire to escape. There is a terrifying moment where she is caught and bound up by Three who is intent on punishing her for her crime, and as she lies screaming on the floor, Ruby Lawrence delivers the most chilling and powerful lines of the play. Though the point of Blanky’s adventure into the slums was somewhat lost – I never had a clear sense of what she was running away from – it didn’t matter in the slightest. The Heaps was incredible, making tremendous use of space and lighting, and keeping me spell-bound by its raw energy from start to finish.

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