Big Telly is a company that is unafraid of going out into the community to create interactive, immersive work sharpened by the inevitable risk of things going horribly wrong. Under its co-founder and artistic director Zoe Seaton, it has moved more recently into the digital world of ‘game theatre’, propelling unsuspecting audiences into unsettling adventures where fantasy and reality sit cheek by jowl.
In Operation Elsewhere, families and friends dial into Zoom for a new experience of shared live performance.
Seaton has adapted Jane Talbot’s original collection of dark tales from Irish mythology into a riotous piece of quarantine theatre. There is no attempt to reconcile modern technology with the mysterious ancient world: the skilfully engineered clash of time zones is part of the fun.
The audience arrives at an airport and is put through the usual search procedures by Cillian Lenahan’s incompetent security guard. Then behold Chris Grant’s shape-shifting Púca, who employs green-screen game wizardry to speed us to Elsewhere, a land of faeries and magic, where time is inside out and upside down.
Nicky Harley’s warrior queen Scatha is a bold, cartoony presence, leading the gathering into an assault on Michael Johnston’s malevolent Birdman. Rhodri Lewis is a thunderous Colin, the earnest human changeling transformed into a simpering, bearded bride.
The audience unites in chanting, singing and joining the nuptial festivities of Anya (Rosie McClelland) and Dave (Keith Singleton), the modern-day incarnations of the mythical Tír na nÓg lovers Oisín and Niamh. The whole thing is gloriously mad and messy, guaranteed to brighten a grey day of enforced isolation.