The Boat Goes Over the Mountain
REVIEW: Rosemary Scott
Reading "traditional shamanic hallucinogenic ceremony" in the description of The Boat Goes Over the Mountain, you might have expectations of a wild-eyed, crystal-clad flowerchild, preaching spirit animals and sewing his own pants out of hemp. Your various social media feeds might have over-fed you Insta-filtered images of travellers in natural scenery, and you're bored with the sentiment the Helvetica calls "FIND YOURSELF" and "GET OUT OF YOUR COMFORT ZONE."
Andrew Hale is not that guy, which is what makes this play both accessible and captivating.
Presented by The Happy Dagger Theatre, this production deftly navigates around the tired terrain of mystical self-discovery abroad. Introducing himself as "a guy with a job, a house, a wife," the narrator tells how he spontaneously decided to travel to Peru and take part in an Ayahuasca retreat, in a bid to deal with his depression. The story of physically and emotionally punishing mind-altering tourism is cheerfully recounted like a fascinating dinner party anecdote shared with friends.
Told by this determined, yet humorously reluctant and self-conscious participant, the "journey" does not come across as indulgent or self-aggrandising - it's honest. The narrator battles niggling self-doubt, worry and scepticism as he participates in the nine-part ceremony, cheekily scrutinising the associations of tourism and drugs with meaningful experiences while sincerely pursuing his own epiphany.
Hale's animated story-telling and energetic physical narrative is off-set by live music, rigorously performed on a large transformative wooden frame. This cleverly manipulated work of carpentry is climbed upon, rhythmically beaten and rocked, structuring the scenes and doubling as an instrument. Unfortunately the sound of this percussion was slightly compromised by the volume of neighbouring Fringe venues.
In his quest to "find self", Hale finds self-depreciation, not to mention finding himself expelling quite a lot of Ayahuasca-coloured spew. The audience, in turn, seemed thoroughly enthralled with his performance.