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12 Million Volts: Lichfield Review

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by Tony Collins (subscribe)
I am a freelance writer specialising mainly in health and education and living in Staffordshire. Find me on Linked In
Imagination and invention in tribute to Nikola Tesla
The life of one of the world's greatest inventors, Nikola Tesla, is imaginatively, if sometimes bizarrely, told in this somewhat brief production by The Outbound Project theatre company. '12 Million Volts', produced in collaboration with Marine Theatre, seeks to tell the true story of Tesla, the man who gave Alternating Current to the world, along with many other inventions. The play, which was performed at the Lichfield Garrick theatre on April 28, explores the concepts of genius, rivalry and loneliness, as well as the 'American Dream'.

12 Million Volts
12 Million Volts centres on electrical invention. Credit Polly Bycroft-Brown

It follows Tesla after his decision to move to New York in 1884 to pursue his scientific ambitions. There he meets the equally brilliant inventor, Thomas Edison, who had already developed a Direct Current system of electricity. But that relationship soon turns sour, leading to what the production describes as the 'war of the currents'. Throughout it all, '12 Million Volts' conveys Tesla as a man who simply wants to help the world without interest in fame or fortune. His work, and the inventions they lead to are the be all and end all as far as he is concerned. The Outbound Project, winners of the Les Enfants Terribles Partnership Award, set out to invite the audience into the mind of a genius. But the four-strong cast are somewhat restricted by the play's duration of less than an hour.

12 Million Volts
Play explores the life of Tesla. Credit Thomas Adam Green

The arm waving and spinning movements of the cast members do prove something of an unnecessary distraction at times. But the regular narration helps to keep the story moving along, while also providing a suitable complement to the imaginative as well as physical theatrical effects that are the real strength of the production. Right from the start, the audience is invited to close and open their eyes while things change on stage. And this clever use of visual techniques continues throughout, including the intermittent use of a video projector, a 'floating' hat and giant cigar, and balloons taking on the guise of pigeons, one of which shoots lasers out of its eyes.

12 Million Volts
The use of imagination includes balloons as pigeons. Credit Thomas Adam Green

Rating: 3 out of 5

Forthcoming shows

May 4 & 5 Jackson's Lane London
May 12 Uppingham Theatre Uppingham
May 17 Cornerstone Arts Centre Didcot
May 23 Thwaites Empire Theatre Blackburn
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Why? Learn About One Of The World's Greatest Inventors
When: Saturday 28 April
Phone: 01543 412121
Where: Lichfield Garrick, Castle Dyke, Lichfield WS13 6HR
Cost: Tickets 17
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by Tony Collins on 13/04/2018
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