Counting Sheep ★★★ (The Vaults, 17 February 2019)

This immersive production, telling the story of a couple whom met in the terrifying 2014 Kiev uprising, baffles just as much as it entertains. Although understandable, as you'd imagine getting caught in an uprising would be fairly confusing, the moving narrative gets lost in the noise.

Upon entering the space, you are reminded that you are here to stage a revolution. The 'premium protesters' (AKA most expensive tickets) are invited to sit, eat and drink in a traditional Ukranian feast, whilst the 'observers' sit and watch the action unfold. As the revolution takes place, you join the uprising, building the barricades and stomping along to the music. As exciting and fun as this is, we are unsure what exactly we are protesting. The banging of drums and singing overwhelms the narrative - we can barely hear the storytellers, and as we are led around the space carrying bricks and wearing hard hats, we have no idea quite what we are revolting against. For the observers this must be tedious to watch, as 'protesters' shuffle around to the right position for each scene. We hear snippets of the two leads as Mark and Marichka Marczyk, following their first hand experience as a Canadian journalist and Ukrainian musician, whom meet in the middle of an excitable protest, which soon turns into a scene of devastation. These snippets however are not enough to understand truly what is going on.

There are some beautiful moments, as the traditional music and euro-pop fuse to create a battlecry, and moving physical scenes in which choreography of the Belarus Free Theatre really shines. Sadly though, much of the dialogue which intersperses the piece is difficult to pick out amongst the bustle of the audience, and only the bare bones of their story remains. At the end of the performance we read the cause of the riots on projections, and we are told what happened to our protagonists. It is heartwarming, yet stark and shocking - but relying on an epilogue shouldn't have been necessary. A shame for what could have been a moving experience, to be just a bit of fun.


#countingsheep #stagingarevolution #belarusfreetheatre #vaultsfestival