Beneath the Blizzard at The Bike Shed Theatre, Exeter

When I find myself walking around with an earworm that adds a bounce to my step, and I hear my children singing the same rousing song, and other memorable numbers from the show we saw a couple of nights ago, as they walk through the supermarket, I know I’ve been to see a gem of a show.

That show being Beneath The Blizzard, a creation by award-winning theatre company and band, Fine Chisel, of Bristol.

This is a story of the indomitable human spirit in dire times, as told by a group of rebels, misfits, and dreamers, living beneath a blizzard that’s made the world above ground too dangerous to venture out into.

One of the things I loved about this show is how it is genuinely a family show: entertaining for all ages, not a children’s show that adults bear for the sake of their children’s enjoyment.

The set was cleverly designed and we loved how they used every aspect of the space to good effect. The result is that this isn’t a passive audience experience, as members of the audience are included in the cast as fellow members of ‘Bunk Room C’, as volunteers on stage (which my children adored!), and even as elements of the set as the adventure unfolds, to much hilarity and some good-natured ribbing. That last one could have been uncomfortable and cringeworthy, but instead it felt inclusive and fun.. even for a non-participator like me.

This audience participation alone could have kept my children engaged throughout the two hours (which includes a 15 minute break), even my very-short-attention-span gamer. That the story was well told, had plenty of jokes and cultural references to make everyone laugh, and enough connection with the characters to empathise with their emotional journey, really made it a great show to be out enjoying together as a family. There’s a good balance between it being thrilling, yet tender, laugh-out-loud funny, and ultimately exultant.

All of the dwellers Beneath the Blizzard who share their tale with us, and there are a fair few, are played by just three actors whose fast changes of costume and fantastic changes of character really had us seeing entirely different people throughout the storytelling. My children particularly enjoyed being able to see the changes happening in front of them. Sprout’s youthful exuberance and questioning of the world she lives in, Mulligan’s strength and passion, and Skirret’s rebel with a heart, were all qualities we could connect with and rally behind, but even the side characters had flair and presence.

Without a doubt, these are all excellent reasons to love the show, but the highlight of the night for us was the music. Fine Chisel played a lot of different instruments and played them well, but more than that, the music itself was full of lyrics that stayed with us, and melodies that had our toes tapping and our bodies moving in rhythm, and our hearts moving with them too.

While the show may have had a minimalist set and an even smaller cast, we left with grand scenes in our head, our hearts filled with celebration, and our ears filled with song.

As my 9 year old said in the car on the way home.. “That was EXCITING mum. When can we see it again?”.

I think that says it all.


See The Bike Shed Theatre’s programme of events here

Beneath the Blizzard shows at Tropicana Theatre, Weston, on 13th and 14th January. Tickets available from TFT’s website or in person at The Bay Cafe

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