Edinburgh performing arts treasures, Lyra, specifically the Lyra Young Company premiered their new show, That Feeling When this October. Ambitious is an understatement, the show being a multi-disciplinary attempt to capture the (good) sensory world of teenhood. Invoking the retired (and not dead) spirit of Marie Kondo, That Feeling When asks its creators ‘What sparks joy’, followed by ‘And how do you portray that on stage?’
The first part of that answer is to sit your audience on the studio floor, marooned upon foam-padded islands. This is a show to exist within, not watch from afar. The company’s next step is to combine spoken word, physical theatre, and live music into a sequence of dramatic vignettes. Director, Choreographer, and Conceptualizer Natalia Barua, and Composer and Sound maestro Caitlin Mulgrew have been nothing if not ambitious! With the support and guidance of Jo Timmins, however, ambition is to be expected.
The range of experiences on offer spans the abstract to the well-defined. The joy of being true to yourself is a tricky one, but in having two young actors progressively remove an epic number of t-shirts, each baring an opposing but equally valid truth, the company get darn close. Think ‘Get out of bed early and have breakfast’ vs ‘Teens need more sleep’.
Leaning into the power of speech, the opening gambit strays closer to guided meditation, one young performer calmly describing a cosy night in with slippers, and a crackling fire. Joined by a second actor, That Feeling When makes its first foray into partner work, with one gently manipulating the other, perhaps conveying the physical sensation of outside stimuli on the speaker’s interior life.
In contrast, teenage adrenaline thrills are best captured in a wonderful roller-coaster scene, the experience audio-described, even as a ‘train’ of young performers zip around the room, and between the islanders watching. It’s wryly funny and genuinely exhilarating.
The show’s tour-de-force, however, must be one of the cast enacting an evening walk around Holyrood Park. Clarity of script, and a clever recreation of a landscape of ups and downs, low-hanging branches, and more through clever group choreography. Coupled with the dark room, and crisp soundtrack, a peaceful walk at peace with oneself is well invoked. This scene, as with the entire show benefits immensely from the live soundscape being made by members of the cast, a lively blend of guitar, synth, and percussion which continually sets an immersive mood.
Winding up with an ambitious finale whereby the entire audience finds itself safe within an enormous blanket den, That Feeling When definitely leaves its audience with smiles on their faces. It’s a free gift from the talented teenage cast to their mixed-age watchers.
If I have any constructive advice to offer, it would be for each young performer to develop more confidence in their voice. Adrenaline is a dual-edged weapon, but mastering it and making every word count pays off every single time. In this case, it would save a (very small) handful of comments from being lost, and my bet is every single word in the show had to earn its spot.
That being my only note, it’s safe to say That Feeling When is a fantastic piece of work and a credit to its creators. Devised with and performed by Aiden, Arthur, Danny, Dawid, Hanna, Lucy, Manal, Nadia, and Samuel, kudos are deserved all around. Bravo indeed guys, bravo. That goes for the entire Lyra team. It takes a proverbial village to make this sort of enabling, high-quality work a reality. Every single human involved is a credit to the industry and should take pride in this fab, compact, adventure of a show.