You find yourself sitting in the exam hall, paper on the desk in front of you. The clock is ticking, the pressure is on but in your gut, there is a terrible feeling. You know nothing. You have not prepared, and you are not ready to be tested. It’s a recurring dream all too familiar to many even years after leaving education and it serves as an apt setpiece to open National Theatre of Scotland’s interactive, promenade performance Like Flying. An eerie dream world is established immediately as we are directed to take a desk. It’s familiar, but not quite right. As the register is called a simple, unceasing drumbeat played by one of our student hosts reminds us we are through the looking glass now.

We are escorted between lessons by a taciturn guide in school uniform. In each class, we find a new exploration of the concept of “flying” delivered by a cast of 12-14-year-olds. All or Nothing Aerial dance theatre’s movement direction under the creative lead of Nic Green gives a real demonstration of the range and versatility of aerial theatre, at times feeling breathtaking and spectacular and others intricate and intimate. The most interesting moments however, come in the pauses in between classes where we are left to reflect on how much of what we are seeing is real. A glance in a classroom with the door left ajar reveals a figure transfixed by a model bird and its reflection. Details such as these maintain a state of continually questioning what we perceive. As we make our way through the music corridor we pass the drummer from our original exam still maintaining the beat and the disorienting dream logic.

Throughout the performance, yet another common dream is evoked: that of falling. As we experience each classroom’s lesson and reflect on ourselves the throughline emerges that “falling” is inevitable, and that the world will at times feel upside down but we are faced with embracing it and learning to fly. Created in partnership with SAMH (Scottish Association for Mental Health) as a response to rising levels of anxiety in teenagers across Scotland, Like Flying delivers an important and hopeful message using inventive performance and technology that taps into the subconscious by crafting a world that is a reflection of our own.

Photo courtesy of Pete Dibdin

Like Flying runs at Auchinleck Academy, Cumnock from 26th – 28th June 2019.