When two highly-respected companies like Punchdrunk and Hijinx Theatre get together, there is the potential for something great; and Beneath the Streets: Lost and Found is something great. The premise of the show is in its title – this world, hidden in the bowels of Cardiff, is full of loss. Not just things, but people and memories. Characters roam around the space aimlessly, always searching for something that they can’t quite grasp.
There is occasional interaction with the audience but, for the most part, characters get on with their business while we look on. Led through to two floors of what has been converted an office building and warehouse, the audience are given free rein to wander where they like – to follow characters as they please; to open drawers; to read conveniently-placed information.
‘Scenes’ take place simultaneously in different parts of the venue, immersing the audience into that feeling of confusion. While it’s fun stumbling into a sequence mid-flow, I can’t help but feel that I was missing something important elsewhere; there is almost too much freedom, and some more guidance would have been helpful.
But, really, I’m clutching at straws with that criticism because the production team does a brilliant job of making the space as interactive as it is. Moreso than that, though, what really sticks out for me is the use of disabled actors. Hijinx Theatre is quickly establishing itself as one of the best inclusive theatre companies in the UK, and this piece proves why. There is no dip in quality through using disabled actors, and each member of the cast is as integral to the success of piece as the next. It’s truly a joy to see these very talented performers getting a chance to showcase their skills.
It goes without saying that both Punchdrunk and Hijinx have lived up to their high standards; Beneath the Streets is a beautifully-realised immersive experience, with a fascinating story and an excellent cast. A few days removed from the performance, I’m wanting to be back in there, to keep exploring the space and engaging with the cast. As immersive and inclusive performances go, you couldn’t ask for more.