I had the pleasure of seeing Hoipolloi Theatre‘s production Floating on Friday at the Metro Studio. On the surface, it’s a show about the time that the Isle of Anglesey detached itself from Wales and floated around the Atlantic Ocean before returning to the exact place from whence it came. But if that’s all you knew about the show, then you would be rather misled.
Floating stars Hugh Hughes as a man who wants to leave Anglesey, but whose efforts are thwarted by the Isle separating from the mainland. Playing all other roles is Sioned Rowlands, who is alternately the Isle’s self-proclaimed leader, Hugh’s good friend, and Hugh’s grandmother (she also does HEAPS of tech – it’s a show rich in multimedia).
The show is almost a presentation – albeit a fictitious one – instead of a play, with Hugh addressing the audience throughout. Hughes’ comedy chops shine through here, with many moments improvised, and the script sometimes only in the backs of all our minds.
The set is littered with stuff: chairs and tables, screens and projectors; Sioned’s costumes are in one corner; props including chains, a basin of water, and a flotation device made of string and oranges are tucked into every nook and cranny. One by one these items emerge, as if from nowhere, to enhance this absurd story. A tourist tea towel for Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch gets passed around the audience, as do Hugh’s grandmother’s wrestling magazines, and a picture of Hugh’s grandmother in a viewfinder. These items make the story seem real, or at the very least they make me dearly wish that the world of Hugh Hughes WERE real, and that the Isle of Anglesey really did separate from the mainland of Wales, to be sailed like a boat around the Atlantic Ocean.
This is the true magic of Floating: the play works because of the magneticism and inherent likeability of Hugh Hughes. His earnest, wide-open eyes and his boyish grin draw the audience in, and make it impossible not to want to be a part of his world.