Review: 6 Degrees Below The Horizon at The West Yorkshire Playhouse

Part of the West Yorkshire Playhouse’s Transform season, 6 Degrees Below The Horizon is an innovative blend of theatre & cinema by UK theatre company Imitating The Dog.

Billed as a macabre and playful tale involving sailors, pimps, barflies, chorus girls and nightclub singers, 6 Degrees starts as a film projected onto a cinema style big screen, showing an old sick man recounting the tale of his life to a young woman. The film is interspersed with the simultaneous appearance of growing blank squares on the screen with the opening of same sized trap doors to reveal a live scene. The exposed scenes are memories of the older man or more literally, windows into his mind.

The dialogue of the live acting is entirely in French but rather than spoken it is a soundtrack mimed (not always perfectly) to by the actors and subtitled on screen. The windows open in different sizes and in several locations around the screen during the show compellingly combining cinema and theatre.

sailor 6 degreesThe story itself is richly emotional and the flashback cum embellished memory narrative structure enthrallingly innovative. Recounting the downward spiral of a desertee sailor who falls in love and tries to set up home with a nightclub singer, who having fallen on hard times is led to prostitution, lies and ultimately murder.

It is perhaps unavoidable but unfortunately each time a window closed, loud and hurried set changes could be heard, which hugely detracted from the recommencement of the film each time it happened making it almost impossible to completely suspend your disbelief.

An exploration of desire 6 Degrees beautifully weaves (often homoerotic) Maritime & Hollywood Noir aesthetics to provide a seductive backdrop to explore the existential musings of an old man during his final moments.

According to the website, it seems the production won’t be touring which is a real shame because 6 Degrees is one of the most interesting and immersive pieces you’re likely to see all year.

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