An intoxicating explosion of music, movement and light, the latest show by acclaimed physical theatre company Clod Ensemble draws the audience in and dazzle them, writes Suzy Willson.

The show On The High Road, which comes to the Oxford Playhouse on Monday and Tuesday, is gripping, vivid and, says director Suzy Willson, “exhilarating”.

“The production follows a disparate group of people who are caught in a terrible storm on the High Road,” she says. “They congregate in a structure that may or may not be big enough to house them comfortably, depending on the choices they make.

“The inhabitants work out how to share space, to live together and to manage their fear. As the night draws in, they dream, pray, dance, party and fight – waiting for the dawn to come. It is set at night, with a storm raging outside, and could be seen as a kind of dream play.”

It stars folk singer Thomas McCarthy, soprano Melanie Pappenheim and cabaret performer George Heyworth.

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Suzy says: “Watching the piece is a highly visual experience – the combination of the different levels of the structure, the limited space and the portrait orientation sometimes feels like watching a moving sculpture.

“The process of making the piece has felt like chipping away at a piece of stone to bring out the shapes or making a painting or line drawing. One minute you may focus on individuals, or somewhat everyday interactions; the next minute the action takes on an epic quality – as if we are watching a battlefield or a revolution.

The Oxford Times:

“I find it exhilarating to watch a large company; the piece features a dynamic company of twelve; outstanding actors, dancers and three extraordinary singers.”

Suzy formed Clod Ensemble in 1995 with musician Paul Clark. They have together staged 20 productions. So what makes them special?

“A review of our first ever show in 1995 described us as ‘resisting categorisation’, and although we didn’t deliberately set out to do that, we still seem to,” says Suzy. “Over the course of the past 20 years, our pieces have been described as physical theatre, dance theatre, music theatre, dance, live art, public art, immersive, inter-disciplinary, cross disciplinary, visual, experimental, site specific and sci art!

“There is always music written by Paul and there is always movement directed by me – so our work is always a meeting place of music and movement.

“We usually don’t work from a pre-existing script or story but from an idea or theme we want to explore. We develop work slowly over several years and the form and content develop together.

“Each piece features different combination of dancers, actors and musicians. The movement vocabulary is created with the performers, which means a multiplicity of experiences, training and references permeate the work.

“I’d say our work is visceral, highly visual, and operates in a poetic register rather than a narrative one. We are as interested in what can be said without words, in group dynamics and exploring the knots and patterns that people get themselves into and out of.”

The Oxford Times:

Clod Ensemble’s On The High Road, is at the Oxford Playhouse tonight (Monday) and tomorrow (Tuesday).

Tickets from oxfordplayhouse.com