Where the White Stops

Know where they’re going: Where the White Stops at Battersea Arts Centre

Where the White Stops by Antler Theatre was a wonder to behold. To say the performance was heroic is literally true as the troupe of four – Daniela Pasquini, Nasi Voutsas and Jasmine Woodcock-Stewart and Daniel Ainsworth – enacted a beautifully imaginative and energetic piece of physical theatre in costumes fit for the North Pole in sauna-like heat conditions! At Battersea Arts Centre.

As the title infers, Where the White Stops is set in a mythical snow-clad land of “The White”, which is not only bitterly cold and wind-swept by icy blizzards, but is also home to the odd savage beast and several mountainous cliff edges. The story revolves around Crab, superbly played by Jasmine Woodcock-Stewart, whose deliberately odd crustacean name is in keeping with the wacky tone of the piece. Crab is determined to see more of the world than “The White” and so her journey, true to form, enables the audiences to live through various tests of courage, wisdom and perseverance.

At all times, the company moved with discipline in the role of storytellers and the many characters involved in the dramatic action. Remarkably, as unbearably as the heat oppressed us, they continued to evoke the quest for survival in their frozen wilderness. Daniela Pasquini’s Princess was dangerously “sweet”; Nasi Voutsas, as Crab’s mute companion, brought to mind the speechless strength of the clown Harpo Marx; and Daniel Ainsworth’s impersonation of Crab’s “you’re-really-too-young-to come-on-an-adventure” character was just hilarious. Yet, it was also his character that shows us the face of death in the play.

Each performer proved why the company are worthy winners of the “IdeasTap Edinburgh Underbelly Award”Overall, they didn’t miss a beat or cue. They worked as a well-seasoned ensemble that generously engaged the audience in a reciprocal exchange of wonder and awe, and, in particular, an understanding of the magic of a well-constructed story.

It would be interesting to see if Antler Theatre has further plans to develop the work after Edinburgh. The “coming of age” quest, which had its ascendency (as live theatre) in nineteenth-century pantomime extravaganzas at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, employing 400 extras, continues to inspire film epics that take audiences through Middle Earth and to Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The four performers of Antler Theatre clearly don’t come anywhere near creating the size of the spectacle in either of those, yet the troupe’s obvious understanding of the form injected surprising moments of sheer visual splendour – for instance, through the use of single directed light beams, rope to depict climbing up a mountain face, and stylised movement to mark the packing  up of the previous night’s camp.

My personal favourite was the physicalising of the effect of the blizzard on the central characters marching through snow: beautifully detailed, intelligent observation of human versus blizzard! This is a young company who know where they’re going.