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Charlotte Ross gives her thoughts on the Bucket Club’s minimalist yet gripping production.

Fossils is a captivating amalgamation of science, poetry and music that leaves you feeling like there’s a lot more to life than meets the eye. The play tells the story of scientist Vanessa and her search for truth, which she pursues in attempting to unravel the 32-year old mystery of her father’s disappearance.

The play is filled with a multitude of imaginative characters, despite making use of only three actors. The size of the cast soon proves no hindrance to the audience’s immersion in the riveting tale, which jumps from location to location with the help of musical cues.

The audience is met with a set as minimalist as the play’s cast. However, a horde of different scenes are soon conjured in front of the audience’s eyes. The actors rely on the help of a table holding a variety of musical instruments and two trays filled with water, which are used for both sound effects and to represent changes of scene. The use of see-through props simply adds to the set’s feeling of emptiness, which the cast manage to mould into whatever they desire, from Loch Ness to a city-based scientific lab.

‘DNA spiralled through the soles of my feet into oblivion’

Comedic effect is generated by the use of a menagerie of model dinosaurs to fill in for other characters, reminding us that despite the mature outward appearance and developed scientific mind of the main character, she nevertheless remains within as a lost child, abandoned by her father.

The play retains a playful hint of science throughout. Memories are introduced like articles in a scientific journal: ‘Figure 1: I am 6, we are on holiday’. Microphones are used to give the actors’ voices a misty tone, and speech is occasionally obscured by the interruption of mournful accordion tones. Quirky quotes, such as ‘DNA spiralled through the soles of my feet into oblivion’, form Vanessa into a fascinating character who is both deeply logical yet fancifully poetic. Although in some ways a stereotypical scientist, these moments cause the audience to fall in love with a woman who is desperately clinging to the one rational thing in her life, science, while everything else she knows slips away.

Music elevates the piece from a potentially cliché story of a girl desperately seeking a long-lost father to a contemplation of human nature and grief. Snippets of live violin, piano and accordion guide the audience through a cacophony of emotions, reliving Vanessa’s joyful childhood memories with her one minute, and plunging us into despair when brought back to reality the next. At times the music detracts from the heartfelt monologues, but it nevertheless hovers on the edge of magical and menacing, leaving the audience not quite sure what will come next.

All in all, ‘Fossils’ offers a whimsical take on a tragic narrative, which when combined with inventive staging, live music and simplistic yet effective acting, harmonises into a charming tale of loss and acceptance.

★★★★

Fossils is on at the Wardrobe Theatre until 11th October. Tickets available here.


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