By Andrew MacNiven
This play is an intensely personal journey into the self, one man’s psychotropic expedition deep into the jungles of Peru. Will he ‘find himself’, as he has set out to do? And, more pertinently, will he emerge with his mental health intact?
This performance is the brainchild of writer and performer Andrew Hale. Hale blurs the lines between fantasy and reality in this seemingly autobiographical performance, using his own name for that of the protagonist.
Andrew seems to have it all – an apparently happy family life and a well-paying job – but there is something missing: a gnawing hole, a restlessness, an insidious lethargy. He leaves behind his comfortable, but hollow, existence for the Peruvian jungle, in search of some deeper meaning, some fundamental truth.
This expedition primarily involves the ingestion of ever-stronger hallucinogenic drugs, perhaps even the infamous Ayahuasca, which lead to visions and copious amounts of vomit. The light effects that dance across the stage, and the perfumed smoke which settles as a thin fog over the action, create an intoxicating, soporific effect that evokes both the psychoactive effects of the drugs and the humidity of the jungle. This ambiance is augmented by the superb percussive work of Dave Richardson.
Andrew is not necessarily the most likeable or sympathetic character due to his apparently self-centred nature. This is perhaps compounded by the nature of the performance, which takes the form of lengthy soliloquies. This is offset by Richardson, who often interjects at necessary intervals to play the part of various other members of the Peruvian tour group, hallucinogenic apparitions or even as manifestations of Hale’s own conscience.
Hale brings together an eclectic mix of influences and references; everything from Werner Herzog’s film ‘Fitzcarraldo’ to a homage to the atheistic scepticism of Tim Minchin, with an excerpt of his song ‘Storm’. The stage is dominated by the skeletal outline of a small boat, which is regularly spun around and even flipped over, sometimes with Hale hanging from it precariously, making the performance at times resemble gymnastics or ballet.
‘The Boat Goes Over the Mountain’ is a roller-coaster ride through the human psyche. As the clouds gather over the Amazon before another summer storm, will the beast remain chained? And how long can a man’s sanity be maintained?