The Ugly Spirit is another Unlimited commission by Fittings Multimedia Arts a disability led national organisation which fuse different styles of storytelling. I didn’t know what to expect with this piece but I knew it was going to be an immersive experience. The work is difficult to describe and I also don’t want to reveal anything within the story! I attended not knowing a thing and left feeling haunted and bewildered. David Hoyle offered strawberries to the audience before the performance began, something with has left a sweet and bitter aftertaste which lingers even now in my mind. Read no further if you plan to see it I don’t want to spoil anything!
The piece was Directed by Garry Robson and written by Russell Barr creating a beautiful monster which was inspired by the original conjoined twins Chang and Eng Bunker.
There is clear influence by Punch Drunk, Robson quoted them in the QA after the performance ‘reward those who are curious’. The story is told in two parts, like passengers waiting for a train we stood waiting, everyone was then divided into groups ‘without rhyme or reason’ and ushered to areas of the Bluecoats performance space and behind the scenes; derailed from any clear laid out track. We explored slowly, presented by shocking fragmented treasures which appeared random and unsettling.
To give you a flavour it was like walking through a blend of Sophie’s choice, Girl Interrupted, The Cell, Freaks and Suckerpunch. There were small models which noted to different moments within the story much like the work of Microworlds and Hell.
These snippets offered snapshots to the second half of the performance performed between twins Jessie ( Gareth Kieran Jones), Bessie (Rachel Drazek) what appeared at first as babbling, tortured ramblings of two insane twins slowly revealed a horrific past. This was mirrored by spellbinding performances from Lady Schwarzkoft ( Opera singer Denise Leigh) and accordion player Stefan Andrusyschyn. There was a play with duality between the characters Jessie and Bessie complex shades of innocence and malice whilst the accordion and aria acted as a guiding golden thread through the play. David Hoyle’s provided a menacing authoritative figure of mother and murder. The ugly spirit plans to continue touring and I highly recommend a going only if you are willing to be taken on a confusing, obscure journey which is challenging and unnerving. This is not for those looking for light hearted entertainment; this is for the enquiring adventurer .