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REVIEW: Instructions For Border Crossing at Newcastle Northern Stage

Facing Our Problems

Instructions For Border Crossing
Newcastle Northern Stage
Until Friday 3rd November 2017

Written and performed by Daniel Bye
Directed by Alex Swift
Design by Hannah Sibai
Lighting design by Katharine Williams
Sound design by Mariam Rezaei
Dramaturgy by Sarah Punshon
Produced by Annabel Turpin at ARC

Some shows are actually quite hard to review. This is one such show as we don’t want to give too much away. That would spoil the surprise. Should you go and see it? Definitely. Will it entertain? Indeed it will, unless you get upset by swearing. Do you have to get involved? No, but you’ll probably enjoy it more if you do. Did it deserve all of the great press it got at Edinburgh Fringe? In our opinion, it did. So like the news that comes on before Match Of The Day, this might be a good time to book tickets, though, as always, we will try not to give any spoilers.

Two things are taking place during Daniel Bye’s latest show. A story is being told and a conversation is happening with the audience. We know he is a great storyteller after Error 404 and he creates thought provoking theatre after How To Occupy An Oil Rig so we had high hopes for this show. 

The story is about a 12 year old girl who has got rid of her British passport but she is trying to cause havoc at the border by smuggling herself back into the country.  What are the rules for the staff at border control? How easy is it to get into this country? Is it easy to move across borders when you’re on the fringes of society?

The conversations take place at a table in which a game of Jenga is taking place. Members of the audience are invited up to try and push a few bricks out and share their thoughts before supporting the performance of the next instalment of the story. The first volunteer had the job of illuminating the Jenga tower with a torch so it looked like a police helicopter searchlight scanning a tower block. That is just the first part of the ingenious way in which the story ties in with the action on stage.

The tale ends with the credits being read out like a Radio 4 play and, at times, the rest of the show feels like a recording of a radio play. Sound effects and imaginative use of descriptive language during the storytelling all adds up to support the feel of the show.

The audience participation, which is entirely voluntary but Daniel is such a nice chap it’d be difficult to turn him down, makes this a very engaging experience. We are told that the instructions for the play are based upon the work of a lesser known playwright called Edward Shorter. At first Shorter seems to have been obsessed with creating a lot of border scenes for plays. Then the penny drops about the origins of this hitherto unknown master of the creative arts.

The design includes a retractable tape barrier - such as those used of the queues in airports. There are sound effects for the tapes being adjusted to let people on and off the stage. That leads to an actual barrier in the room and that is, if you think about it, a significant element in the narrative. The music and sound effects also build the tension during the story.

One again, Daniel Bye shows that the simple art of storytelling can lead to a wonderful theatrical performance. His warmth fills the room even if the subject matter is sometimes dark or unpleasant. The packed stage 3 audience played their role too in making tonight’s show a highly engaging celebration of the human spirit. Now I want to get the Jenga out and have a game.

Review by Stephen Oliver

On The Web:

Box Office:  0191 230 5151

The show is on a UK Tour with dates in Norwich, Warwick and Sheffield remaining. Details:

Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry
Thur 9 & Fri 10 Nov 2017
02476 524524

Norwich Arts Centre
Wed 22 Nov 2017
01603 660352

Crucible Studio, Sheffield
Thur 30 Nov 2017
0114 249 6000

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