Review: What It Feels Like - Encompass Productions - New Wimbledon Studio

Ideas about consciousness have been thrown around since antiquity, and yet even today we are still fascinated with trying to understand the complexities of the human mind. What makes us who we are? Can we ever be fully aware of our own motivations? What happens to the brain when we die? A play that explores all of these questions may seem rather ambitious for the first public attempt of a new production company, yet you can’t help come away thinking they may have just pulled it off!

‘What it feels like’ tells the story of Nick, who after a devastating accident is left fighting for his life inside his own consciousness. Left in a coma in the real world, the play explores the possibility that while the body is at rest the mind continues – neither alive nor dead but somewhere in-between. Nick is now conscious within his unconscious body and with the help of two agents Simpson and Lester to guide him, he is led to make the ultimate decision. In order to reach his final destination he must first come to terms with his own psyche and we watch as his own consciousness exposes some of his deepest darkest thoughts.

The first thing that strikes you about the production is the young cast. They are certainly committed and are a pleasure to watch, but the play is ambitious and demands a lot of experience from its performers. They manage well, but there is a danger that the demanding material can expose the more amateur actor. For example, the lead couple, Nick and Sarah, are supposed to have been married for over ten years, yet the actors can only be in their early twenties. This does put pressure on them to provide certain chemistry between the characters which was somewhat lacking, however, it did improve as they found their stride and relaxed.

One actor who holds his own is agent Simpson played by Joshua Tobias Mills. His scenes are convincing and provide some of the well-needed dark humour. He has a sort of ‘double-act’ with agent Lester. It is not explained exactly who they are in this other realm, but they give a sort of purely scientific or alien view of human nature. If your consciousness could talk then these two would be its voice. The script between them is incredibly well written with a surprising amount of humour. However, sometimes the two do not spark off each other as much as they could, but they have the potential to be an awesome duo.

The stage set is minimal but works well and the actors make full use of the space. A mention must be given to the other nine cast members who take on the role of ‘The Aspects’. Dressed entirely in black with their faces covered they represent aspects of Nick’s psyche. They interact with the characters in silence, either passively helping the agents in their case or actively taking on and displaying Nick’s emotions. It is beautifully done and sometimes makes for disturbing watching. 

The negatives of the production have to be the poor score choice. The music seems unsuited to the action happening on stage and is sometimes so loud that the lines are drowned out and we fail to hear what’s going on. The sound effects also appear dull and the general sound production can feel murky and under water. There is also an odd simulated sex scene that seems to be a mixture of half-hearted modern dance and morose pop music. It lacks charisma and even with the help from all thirteen cast members on stage it still falls flat, lasting awkwardly for a full five minutes…

Despite these more amateur mistakes the production works well and has the potential to make it to the West End. There should be more theatre like it, and it would be a crime if it didn’t get the full support it deserves. If you’re looking for answers then it will only leave you with more puzzling questions, but that is the charm of exploring the unknown. It’s a mixture of intense emotions mixed with a little bit of dark humour. It’s about finding out about who you are, how you see yourself and more importantly what it feels like!

What It Feels Like is heading to Edinburgh Fringe:

C too, Venue 4,
Edinburgh Festival Fringe
4.30pm (1hr10)
0845 260 1234/
Dates 4 – 21st August
Ticket Prices £7.50 - £9.50/concessions £6.50 - £8.50
Fringe box office 0131 226 0000/

Review by Melissa Phillips