Performed in the studio at BATS, Marble Cinematic Universe is an intimate and warm experience. Adam Rohe sits center stage beside an old school projector. He is surrounded by objects, jars of marbles, vases, plates, spectacles and other instruments. Rohe places the objects under the projector light, using open facing shadow puppetry to create a world for our hero - the marble, to travel through. Marble Cinematic Universe feels like the happy creativity of a child going through his toy box. It’s innovative and surprising, while being cheerful and whimsical.
It’s cool to see a show that is experimental without being edgy or dark. An effort was made to make the show accessible to people with sensory overload issues and learning difficulties by keeping the vibe relaxed, and providing break-out rooms.
At its best Marble Cinematic Universe has a kind of The Alchemist energy about it. It explores themes like the search for one's place in the world and the realisation of destiny. In one particularly beautiful sequence Rohe creates a planet on the projector by pouring coffee between two transparent plates. This mesmerizing image is paired with a thumping rap song that delivers lyrics about our audacity to believe we’re important in such a big world. It’s got a simple profoundness about it that resonates deeply.
Another highlight is when objects are personified under the projector lights. There is a hilarious sequence where a couple of pairs of tongs with marbles for eyes transform into a lord and lady, dancing together to a string quartet. I wish that some of the other ‘characters’ personalities were pushed further, but this scene was a delight to watch and an audience favourite.
At times I do crave a more narrative structure. The images are beautiful, but sometimes they are just beautiful images. I wanted to know more about the marble’s journey, why was he going on this quest? What is important to him? The ending sees the marble reunited with his friend, but without understanding the stakes the scene missed potential emotional impact.
I also would have liked to see the marble’s natural movement utilized more. Instead of rolling, the marble is often moved manually around the scene by Rohe. If barriers had been added around the edge of the projector the marble could have rolled through the scene, and its path would have been partly up to chance. I think this would have fit nicely with the themes of journey and destiny - the show would have actually been shaped by the direction the marble chose to take. If you have something as unique as a marble as your main character you might as well lean fully into it.
Marble Cinematic Universe is a really fun and creative proof of concept, that with a bit more narrative structure could be truly awesome. It’s on at BATS at 7.30pm until Saturday 27th February. Book your tickets here.