Mark Murphy's V-TOL Out of this World The Festival Theatre Edinburgh Review Tuesday 23rd May 2017


Mark Murphy’s V-TOL “Out of This World” brings a unique and visionary theatrical experience to The Festival Theatre in Edinburgh for only two performances, and if you are reading this review in time, I hope that you can make it along to the last performance to experience this production as there is no real way to describe “Out of This World” in a review, this is theatre that you have to experience in person.

Mark Murphy is an artist, director, writer, producer (and much more) who over his long career has built up a world class reputation in visual productions across the world and has been the man behind many spectacular outdoor events.   This production from his company V-TOL has been taking shape since 2010 and is a incredibly complex combination of projected film, animation, special effects, stage technology, actors, choreography music and an awful lot of specialist aerial wire rigging effects.  This is a production of perfect choreography and split second timing which I think even director Mark Murphy is surprised has ever finally come to theatrical completion and presentation.

“Out of This World” is the sort of visual experience that only live theatre can provide, and the large and technically well equipped stage of The Festival Theatre is a perfect performance space for this production.  This is immersion theatre without a break for the full running time of the show (you could not break this performance up with an interval).  The visual effects can at time run the risk of overshadowing a real story of a young couple just married a few weeks earlier who have been in a devastating car crash.  Our “Out of This World” experience using all its effects to “tell the story of a woman’s woozy descent through the layers of anaesthesia into the depths of a medically induced coma” (using their own programme words here, but they describe the show perfectly).  There are many layers to this story, many philosophical questions with no real answers…the biggest of them all of course being “What lies between life and death” and what is after death.  There is also at the core of this story a very simple love story of two people in love and together for all too short a time on this earth which is being played against the setting of an emergency medical team trying their best to save human lives.

Our physical actors tonight do take a little bit of a back step to the huge production visuals and team behind this show, but Catherine Cusack, Scott Hoatson, Itxaso Moreno, Alex Palmer, Anwar Russell and Sarah Swire are the excellent human faces of what could otherwise have been simply an elaborate technical production, and the two merge into one here.

There are so many unseen people involved in this production that the best thing to do is direct you to this website for further information.

Special note in this production though has to go to the haunting music.  Music composition and sound design are by Nathaniel Reed with song lyrics written by Sara Swire.  I would happily listen to the music of this show as a stand alone performance if it were ever done.

“Out of this World” does exactly what the title suggests – takes the theatre goer into new visual and sound spaces while at the same time telling a story that raises many questions with no possible answers to them.

Mark Murphy was going to be doing a question and answer session after this show, but with his personal connections to Manchester this was cancelled.  Set against the unspeakable evil of the bombing at The Manchester Arena the night before, this was a wholly understandable decision. 

I have to perhaps give Mark Murphy a personal apology here that this review is perhaps not as glowing as it should be for a visionary, bold and outstanding theatrical production, but I have to admit that part of me felt it somehow not just quite right to be enjoying myself out at a theatre this evening, and half of me was not going to come, but the other half said go, if we don’t carry on with our lives then evil has won.  I also found the setting of an emergency team on stage  and a relative coming into the story to find out the fate of a loved one a bit difficult this evening as part of my mind kept wandering to what must be happening in real time down in Manchester.  I am sure that Mark Murphy will not object if I dedicate this review to all the medics and emergency services not only in Manchester, but everywhere who are somehow always there whenever we need them to be.


Review by Tom King

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