Two in a Barrel – National Museum of Scotland

Created and Performed Sarah Rose Graber and Ruxy Cantir

Directed by Tim Licata

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The prospect of living on an island with your best pal might sound like a dream for some, a nightmare for others.

But that’s precisely where Riri and Moku find themselves, confined to a barrel, sitting atop an island of rubbish. It isn’t as bad as it sounds though, as they enjoy riffling through the trash in search of treasures and trinkets which may be of use to them. All this stuff has a second life, in some way or another, the first of many of the show’s nuanced nods to enviromentalism. These throw away pieces could be a plaything or a spark for the imagination to feast upon – but gradually, the rubbish which confines their home begins to grow a little larger, and larger still, until it consumes the space surrounding the barrel.

Champions of artists, Scissor Kicks, present Two in a Barrel condenses some of the contemporary world’s pressing issues into a manageable and clever form of interpretive play, imagination, and educative enjoyment. Innocence is key to the authenticity of creators Sarah Rose Graber and Ruxy Cantir’s performance and assurances that the audience has a sense of recognition of the pair. They’re authentically charming and humorous, but also gluttonous and mischievous – the pair are no saints, just like their young audience. It also alleviates concerns of being the source of the consumeristic concerns and waste within the environment, they’re the generation having to deal with the consequences of the world before them – and it takes time for them to recognise this and step into action.

The sickening impact of mass waste (non-bio-degradable) is evident to see from the onset, with the set and Fergus Dunnet’s visual design making it clear that even though beneath all this rot and rubbish is a world of adventure and wonder, the dangerous floating on the surface are only the start of the problem. Astoundingly observant, even the smallest of moments carry enormous weight in the show’s production and writing, the presence of a single apple in a world where Riri and Moku (comedically) battle for processed sweet treats very subtly strikes the destruction of the climate crisis is having with fresh produce.

Tying the weather so prominently into the narrative (the key signifier that we’re not treating the planet right) is a genius feature to subtly tie together the destructive impacts of waste and the climate crisis – without overloading or stoking fears in the younger audience members. Susan Bear’s sound design conjures hurricane and hail, rain and sunshine with the familiarity of a Scottish summer. It’s all roped together with Laura Hawkins’ rather splendid lighting that enhances everything – without washing out or distracting. It comes to a delightful head with the occasional use of shadow-puppetry, to represent the Riri and Moku inside the bowels of their barrel, or the growing trees and plants once the rubbish begins to clear.

The cramped confines of the barrel never halt the magic of the show, Graber and Cantir contorting and manipulating the space the audience can visualise within the barrel – conjuring a judging world inside this small space. Humour is wielded primarily for communication and humour, there’s little in the way of verbal conduction for the piece, increasing its accessibility. It also makes for tremendous commentary on co-existing, something gradually the world seems to be struggling with, and the importance of peaceful, beneficial, and supportive friendships.

For a show so steeped in movement: of clown and physical storytelling, Licata’s direction contains a depth of appreciation for the quieter moments of the narrative: something welcomed by both involved little ones and invested adults. A delightfully compact piece, which showcases some tremendously physical storytelling, with a little bit of scientific magic and insightful introductions to the issues future generations face, and ways to counter these, Two in a Barrell is as equally as impressive for young eyes, as it is for weary ones.

Tremendous Physical Storytelling

Two in a Barrel tours Scotland until May 28th.
Runs for forty-five minutes, without interval.

A full list of dates and tickets may be obtained here.
Suitable for Ages 5+


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