‘PAKMAN is a lovely example of what theatre is capable of doing so well: being wildly entertaining and also building empathy.’
Lyn Gardner for the British Council, 11 August 2017
The UK outdoor arts scene has welcomed European artists with open arms. Continuing the Culture after Brexit series, Lyn Gardner visits the Greenwich and Docklands International Festival, reporting on ambitious new productions from the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands, and talking to Artistic Director Bradley Hemmings about his hopes for the future.
The UK may have been slow in some respects in embracing theatre from Europe, with too few venues giving us the chance to see work made by the great European directors of the last 30 years. But if there is one area where the UK has welcomed European artists with open arms, it has been in the field of street theatre.
It’s not as if the small-scale can’t have as great an impact as shows produced on the large-scale. Rear View proves that, so does Belgium company Post Uit Hessdalen’s Pakman which was also part of Greenwich Fair.
Pakman is a simple idea that is brilliantly executed. Pakman is one of those people who, often on a zero-hours contract, works in a huge online warehouse. His day is spent putting the things we buy online into boxes and dispatching them. In a great little touch, the seats for the performance are made from those boxes and must be passed around the audience.
But we don’t watch Pakman filling the boxes, instead we witness him in a tiny space juggling with balls that fly off the walls at angles in the confined space to the thud and thump of drums. We don’t just see the pressure that Pakman is under, we actually understand it even as we applaud his virtuosity in keeping all the balls in the air. The show is a lovely example of what theatre is capable of doing so well: being wildly entertaining and also building empathy. It will make you think twice next time you are online shopping.
Hemmings believes that combing action and narrative is still one of the challenges facing outdoor arts.
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