The blurb on the Blue Room Theatre’s website for Happy Dagger Theatre’s production of The Boat Goes Over The Mountain suggests a confronting story filled with horrid darkness, however I was pleasantly surprised. Writer and sole performer Andrew Hale delivers an honestly gripping tale injected with light humour.
A man with depression seeking to cleanse his body goes into the jungles of Peru to meet with a shaman. The performance focuses on a dramatic retelling of the events in the jungle, in particular the nine-part ceremony that involves drinking ayahuasca, enduring hallucinogenic visions, and being violently ill.
Hale’s choice of an anecdotal monologue successfully engaged the audience, even if it was somewhat predictable. The first two and the last of the ceremonies were presented in vivid, visceral detail, while those in the middle were skimmed over; clearly an attempt to avoid creating a feeling of monotony.
There were aspects of the performance that did feel repetitive, however Hale’s boundless energy worked to keep the audience on the edge of their seats; and his intermittent singing was a delight. You genuinely wanted to know what was going to happen in the next ceremony.
A highlight of the performance was certainly Dave Richardson’s live music. Making use of the stage and the props available to him he effectively created the constantly shifting atmosphere, as well as providing a person for Hale to interact with when needed. Richardson’s innovative approach to performance music was fascinating to watch and listen to.
India Mehta’s design for the tiny studio space was appropriately minimalistic. There was an array of musical props, ever-changing coloured lights to signify shifts between reality and hallucination and a large, wooden prop. This was resourcefully rearranged in every possible way to be as many things as possible; however it was also unnervingly unstable. More than once it looked as though Hale might fall while perched at the top.
With so much dialogue involving being physically sick, it was the tactful writing and uplifting message that prevented the audience from leaving with a sick taste in their mouths. Hale tread a fine line between disconcerting and enlightening, but effectively pulled through at the end.
Hale’s character was likeable and, on some levels, easy to relate to; the overall vibe of the show leaves you with a strangely good feeling.
Andrew Hale’s The Boat Goes Over The Mountain is a quietly funny, thrilling performance piece that pushes boundaries in a way you come to expect from The Blue Room Theatre.