Theatre Review: Beulah - York Theatre Royal Studio ✭✭✭✭

York Theatre Royal Studio

The blurred lines between what we perceive as reality and the world we inhabit in our dreams is beautifully examined in the Flanagan Collective’s production of Beulah, a new piece written by Alexander Wright currently showing in York Theatre Royal’s Studio.

Taking its inspiration from the thoughts and writings of William Blake, Beulah is a tale of multiple-plains, different times and definitions of time and people from the past, present and beyond our traditional conceptions.

On one level we follow the story of Leica and Liam as their love blossoms and see how their relationship strengthens in a remote, romantic location. But this is only one side of reality. As we sleep, we enter Beulah and are granted a glimpse of another world, a world beyond ours – a world we will finally reside in once our mortal time is called. Beulah is a beautiful world, one that is personal to each individual but is linked to others at the same time, a world where we are guarded by lions and where the constraints of our standard reality do not apply.

In essence though this is a simple story – one of love, dreams and the way everything relates to each other.

We are guided through three different, but ultimately linked, story lines by the highly engaging Jim Harbourne and Ed Wren. Their natural and casual storytelling style places audiences at ease from the outset – despite the intellectual nature of the premise of the show. They address the audience, explaining the concept and introducing us to the characters with the aid of a few simple props and a tape recorder.

Despite its simple approach, audiences are completely immersed in to the world of Beulah as the production seems to organically grow as it progresses through its single act.

Strewn across the Studio floor are a variety of instruments – it would seem that if you can strum, squeeze or pluck it then Jim and Ed can play it. The production is rich with music composed by the duo and which adds another ethereal element to the overall feeling.

Technical help comes in the shape of the AV design by Ed Sunman whose video projection provides imagery such as the Northern Lights – an example of the real that is almost unreal.

We are told that this is the beginning of the story for Beulah and I certainly hope that this is a long and fruitful journey. It will be interesting to see how a few standard years of our reality transform it.

For the romantics amongst you, those of you that believe in beauty and the reality of dreams, Beulah is a dream come true.

Beulah continues at York Theatre Royal until Saturday 30 June.

4 out of 5 stars ✭✭✭✭ 

Review by James Eaglesfield