Reviewed by Michael Brown
Review Date: 06/10/15

Into Thin Air

from Precious Cargo

15th September 2015 @ Northern Stage, Newcastle

Formed in 2010, Precious Cargo has been introducing the world to a variety of theatre moods and styles ever since, in an attempt to bridge the gap between the tastes of regular theatre-goers and those new to the form. Having performed Into Thin Air in Eastern Europe earlier this year, the piece proved a hit at the recent Edinburgh Festival, prior to this two-night stint at Newcastle’s Northern Stage.

Written with Alison Davies, Into Thin Air explores modern day pressures and the inevitable conclusion that follows if one refuses to hop off the day-to-day treadmill. Through a series of short, overlapping scenes, the piece follows the story of an ambitious girl, attempting to make her way in the world of work. There are questions behind the motive – is it her ambition or one merely dumped upon her by society, regardless of the consequences?

Overworked, the tightrope she has been balancing on eventually snaps. Her dedication to the cause has all but alienated everyone close to her in the outside world, and when she reaches rock bottom another question comes to the fore – will those she has shut out still be there when she needs them most?

Through its avoidance of lavish stage props, Into Thin Air places the focus right where it should be, on the characters and whatever comes spilling out of their overused minds. There’s a playful tension almost from the first line and it remains poised throughout, with a sense that anything could happen at any given time. At an hour’s duration it’s a whirlwind ride through a chunk of personal chaos, and the swift pace is perfectly measured, reflecting the life-on-a-rollercoaster feeling that comes from simply taking on too much and only stopping when your mind and body force you too.

With all the characters played by two actresses and some clever twists of humour throughout, the piece is easy to relate to and fabulously done. The many moods detailed are always well-timed and surprising, with an underlying sense of unease that matters are heading towards breaking point. The skill and originality of the writing and performance give the play an accessibility for all. Its subject matter is provoking, not only as a lesson to the individual as to what is actually important in life, but as a warning that the life imposed upon us by society is not necessarily the right path to take.