Review: The Gifting at Versa Studios

The Gifting is Leeds 2023’s final spectacle performance event of the year. Created by the same co-directors who brought us The Awakening back in January (Alan Lane and Kully Thiarai) it’s hard to believe that a whole year has passed since then. A year in which a lot has changed home and away.

Billed as a promenade performance, The Gifting is an immersive, multi-sensory storytelling experience. It is held at Leeds Versa Studios in Holbeck, a short walk from Leeds train station. We were handed a set of headphones on arrival and excitedly waited for the show to begin.

What The Gifting does brilliantly is it immediately takes you into that magical space of suspended disbelief where anything can happen. As soon as the show begins the audience is directed by smells, by music and stunning lighting effects. There are a number of beautifully designed stages and sets, some that move across the studio space. The audience moves with the action so there is no best seat or best view, there are only many possible perspectives.

The main character and narrator Khorin Khorin Gurav, (2023 in Mongolian) is played by six different actors who gradually get younger and at times are in conversation with each other. The styling of this character is very clear so there’s no confusion. A live band plays music throughout and moves through the 12 stories that make up the show.

The stories themselves capture expansively what it has meant for Leeds to embark on a yearlong creative project, what has come from the promise to dedicate a space for imagination. At the very heart a message of hope, joy and fearlessly moving forward. The cast performed magnificently, with special mentions to Bay Bryan for their emotional performance ‘The Hymn of Polaris’ and the youngest actor David Anthony Bevan Lane who rounded off the narration surrounded by candlelight.

The direction and planning deserve commendation, I can’t even begin to conceive how much work must have gone into creating such a show that runs without pause, and yet provides so much visual stimulation. It is engaging, magical and provides moments of interaction and connection that had the crowd laughing out loud and hugging.  A really fitting way to celebrate the Year of Culture for Leeds and not so much an ending but a looking ahead at what’s to come.

The Gifting runs from 26-31 December with tickets available from leeds2023.co.uk/whats-on/the-gifting

 

This post was written by Lou Bentley

Photo: Bay Bryan. Credit: JMA Photography

 

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