I wasn’t a massive fan of poetry in school. However, I always enjoy seeing interesting adaptations of classic literature or poetry, mostly to see how modern artists are choosing to interpret them for the stage. It’s safe to say that the creatives behind Bolts of Melody have interpreted the poems of Emily Dickinson in a way that is unlike anything I’ve seen.

Throughout the show, there are only two characters on stage who are never named. However, they both appear to have suffered a loss of some kind. This brings them to a mysterious place occupied by the poems of Emily Dickinson, which help the characters to process whatever has led them to their current location. Some of the poems are sung – I wouldn’t say this takes this show into musical theatre territory but does put it within the realm of ‘play with music’. 

The first aspect which struck me about this show is the intricacy and beauty of its scenic design. Although still rather simple (one very beautiful rug, an (I’m assuming) hatstand, and one line of poetry lowered down from the ceiling), the set of this show is able to capture the essence of what it feels like the writers are going for; it feels rustic and magical. The two actors also give excellent performances that play off each other effortlessly. This leads to the dynamic between the two characters feeling very real – they’re not friends by the end of the show, but you do get the sense that they are both important to each other. 

In spite of this, I did still struggle with some aspects of the plot. It is difficult to feel that there is much drive behind the show. The central theme of turning to art after encountering grief is clear from the beginning, but it doesn’t seem to me that much more is done with this idea than simply presenting it over and over again. There are also some parts of the show that I just don’t understand (although please bear in mind the first sentence of this review – I’ve never been a big poetry fan, so this could be because I’m missing something), such as the relevance of the potential(?) hatstand on the set to the wider themes. It’s emphasised in the show that you don’t need to understand everything about poetry to enjoy it, but I did feel like I was missing something important somewhere.

Overall, this is a really interesting idea for a play with excellent scenic design and performances. I just wish the writers had done something more with this excellent premise.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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