Tuesday, June 18

Surfacing – Omnibus Theatre

A heartwarming starlit production. Surreal, evocative and empathetic

Surfacing’s preview run was an Evening Standard Top Pick of VAULT and earned it an Origins Award nomination, and it’s previously been shortlisted for New Diorama Theatre’s Untapped Award. The ASYLUM Arts is a company focused on improving the representation of neurodiversity and disability in the arts. Founded by Stephen Bailey in 2021, ASYLUM produces work, delivers training on neurodiverse inclusion and reinvests its profits in training for early-career disabled and neurodivergent practitioners.

ASYLUM is a Barbican Open Lab resident company and was shortlisted for New Diorama’s Untapped Award 2022. The show centers the story of neurodivergents / mental health experiences navigating a maze of a system that sounds like the cassette stuck on repeat but is truly insightful and eye opening with its expansiveness and grace.

It begins with the internal monologue drawing us hook, line and sinker. We are given a peephole view of the therapist’s preparation that we never see as clients before and after the client enters the therapist’s room. The play works at the intersection of tugging at the curtain to reveal the research into making psychology a science and the nonexistence of empathy shown by managers more driven by numbers than people in psychology. Through some surreal projection, it captures the waves of grief very realistically and highlights the different coping strategies of individuals to grief.

The show’s accessibility is enhanced by the projection of captions and integrated audio descriptions. The light design, meticulously crafted, heightens the emotional depth and tension, drawing the audience into the heart of the performance. It adds variety to the beats of the plot’s unravelling, making the experience visceral. The moments of grief are heavy, but they are superbly balanced by surreal moments of joy, playfulness, and lightness, creating a truly uplifting experience.

The play’s crafty writing invites us to reflect on various elements, subtly calling out corporate mumbo jumbo and how corporate structures in which care providers work do not receive much care. It presents a conversation between the aggressor and victim, debating accountability. It walks the tightrope of being rooted in reality and the tantalising atmospheric horror of one reality being picked apart. These elements engage us in a deeper understanding of the play’s themes. The show’s unique technical elements, including innovative camera work, set design, and sound, are a sight to behold and add an extra layer of intrigue to the performance.

Truly inspiring and important work; don’t miss this show. https://www.omnibus-clapham.org/surfacing/

Reviewer: Anisha Pucadyil

Reviewed: 21st May 2024

North West End UK Rating: 5