The Boat Goes Over the Mountain
Happy Dagger Theatre
Subiaco Arts Centre – Independent Theatre Festival 2015
All good things come to those who wait. At long, long last, after missing its runs at The Blue Room in 2013 and then again at FRINGE WORLD 2014, I finally got to see The Boat Goes Over the Mountain. Andrew Hale and Happy Dagger Theatre brought their spellbinding show to the Subiaco Arts Centre for the Independent Theatre Festival of 2015, and I was lucky enough to see for myself just what all the buzz was about.
Hale gives us a factual (if dramatized) account of his journey to an Ayahuasca retreat in Peru to find some answers about his internal struggles that psychotherapy and pharmacotherapy couldn’t resolve. Leaving his wife and family behind and investing his bottom dollars in the trip, he promises to write a show about it when he’s done. It’ll be a tax write-off, he says, and sets off into the unknown.
His first-person narrative is candid, revealing, frightening and enlightening, probably much like the experience was for him. It’s a great credit to his own bullshit meter that he’s managed to talk about his “stuff” without coming across like a boring, self-absorbed, self-help junkie. There aren’t even any moments of TMI, though he does admit to some pretty touchy-feely discoveries, and does describe the effects of the drug on his system with rather vivid detail.
He’s aided on scene by Craig Williams, who sometimes drops a line or two, but mostly provides sound and music accompaniment. He never pulls focus, and is a welcome, trusty companion to the story. India Mehta’s set design is a small (though physically hefty) work of genius; it’s a convertible wooden piece that suggests a boat and gets turned over and reconfigured a few times, becoming a kind of jungle gym for Hale as he recounts his highs and lows on ayahuasca.
The piece’s title refers to Werner Herzog’s film Fitzcarraldo, and Hale ties in a couple of Klaus Kinski’s mad moments by performing a few lines in character (as Fitzcarraldo). This would ultimately serve to demonstrate the apparent folly and futility of trying to realise one’s wildest dreams, and his undaunted pursuit of those follies. This, of course, made me want to look up this legendary film again, and indeed, it’s a good metaphor for something, as Herzog puts it. Perhaps in the context of the original film it’s a kind of self-reflexive metaphor, but in the context of the play, it’s a metaphor for Hale’s journey of self-discovery.
But enough waffling on; suffice it to say that this is the kind of show that you can get as much out of it as you put into it, because it’s rich with context, leaves doors open, and is as entertaining as it is smart, spiritual and emotional. So you pick which treasures you want to walk away from it with.