If you need a hit of Nordic culture this spring, but don’t want to leave the country, Jacksons Lane is the place to be. Their exciting Nordic Exposure season features the work of artists from Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland and The Faroe Islands. If you have read our review of Three Men from the North, you will recall Mummy is extremely enthusiastic about all things Swedish and suchlike, so it will come as no surprise that she was back at Jacksons Lane this weekend to review another couple of shows in the season. She was supposed to have two munchkins in tow but our household has been going down with Covid like dominoes. Crotchet succumbed on Saturday so sadly only Quaver was cleared to make the trip up to Highgate to see children’s show Ćwir, ćwir! Tíst, tíst! and virtual reality circus experience Hold On.
Tweet, tweet!, Ćwir, ćwir! Tíst, tíst! (Ewa Marcinek and Nanna Gunnars)
First up was Tweet, tweet! Ćwir! Tíst, tíst! Created by Polish author Ewa Marcinek (who lives between Iceland and the UK) and Nanna Gunnars (an Icelandic theatre-maker and actress) the show uses a mixture of English, Icelandic, Polish and birdsong to tell the tale of a brave little hen on an adventure to find her place in the world. And it turned out we weren’t the only ones hit by Covid, with Ewa Marcinek stuck in Iceland. Luckily they managed to draft in a replacement performer who did an excellent job stepping into her shoes as narrator.
Aimed at ages 5-10, it’s a cute little show based on a book which Ewa Marcinek plans to publish in several languages. There are some nice messages in there about following your dreams and it was lovely to be in a room full of children who spoke Polish and Icelandic, highlighting the importance of making theatre which represents diverse audiences. (It was a nice touch to ask all the children which languages they spoke at the beginning of the show – Quaver confidently declared herself to be a Swedish speaker despite being only really being able to say “hello”, “thank you” and name her favourite Swedish brand of chocolate!) Nanna Gunnars was very entertaining as a flock of different birds, and had both the adults and children hooting with laughter. Short and sweet, it probably only lasted around half an hour, making it well suited for very young audiences. Children towards the older end of the suggested age range might find it a little young for them although Quaver (8 and a half) immediately asked if we could buy the book, which we are assuming was a ringing endorsement!
Hold On (Fheel Concepts)
After a trip to the newly refurbished cafe and bar, it was time for our second show of the day. And it couldn’t have been more different! Based on the experiences of former aerial artist Corinne Linder, Hold On invites audiences to experience how it feels to be an aerial circus via a virtual reality headset. With Linder there to guide them, participants are immersed in the world of aerial arts, starting backstage and then feeling the adrenaline and joy of being suspended mid-air, surrounded by other aerial artists.
It’s a really interesting experience, especially if you haven’t tried a virtual reality headset before. With things going on all around you, you are encouraged to explore your environment, first from the safety of an office chair which allows you to turn full circle, and then by standing up. Although there are other people in the room, the headset really makes you feel as you have been transported into a different place, and is heightened by the use of sound, scent and (gentle) touch from within the physical room. It’s very effective but quite intimate which might make some audiences uncomfortable. Quaver found one of the scenes too intense so ended up taking off her headset. She did really enjoy the experience though and has asked if she can try more virtual reality experiences. Mummy was very impressed by how realistic the experience was (and also pleasantly surprised that it didn’t cause her motion sickness – especially since she had a drink in the bar beforehand!) It really gave a glimpse into the life of a circus artist and not just in the sense that you felt as if you were suspended above the ground. It provides a window into the inner world of the performer, offering a unique perspective on what it feels like to walk in their shoes (or – more accurately – bare foot). The experience was only at Jacksons Lane for a couple of days, and has now flown off to France, but we would thoroughly recommend giving it a go if you get the opportunity in future.
The Nordic Exposure Season runs at Jacksons Lane throughout March, April and May 2022. Tweet, tweet! Ćwir, ćwir! Tíst, tíst! and Hold On played on the weekend of 19 to 20 March. We received complimentary press tickets to performances of both shows on Sunday 20 March.