REVIEW: “In Imagination We Trust And In Wonder We Must” CahootsNI’s New Online Show The University Of Wonder and Imagination

During lockdown I really wanted to up skill and learn something new, like perhaps learning a new language? Or, developing my business skills? I didn’t really have “graduated from a University of Wonder ” down on the to-do list but thanks to CahootsNI’s new online show, ‘The University of Wonder and Imagination’ I graduated with a first in imagination and I can proudly own it on my CV. 

Company Director Paul Bosco McEneaney has set up his latest production online as part of a fun, immersive and interactive “fun for all the family” hour via zoom. I was a bit apprehensive about how the format of the show would translate to an audience through a tiny laptop screen, however, with only six screens permitted for each session it was a thoroughly intimate experience which meant the cast were super interactive and we could really immerse ourselves in the overall experience. 

Actor Philippa O’Hara in CahootsNI’s The University of Wonder and Imagination. Photograph taken by Melissa Gordon.

We were welcomed into the University by the University Chancellor, Professor Bamberg (played by Sean Kearns) and then given a tour of the library by Professor Sharma (played by Lata Sharma) who told us to keep a number, a shape and the title of our favourite childhood book in our, “mind’s eye” as this was key information we would need to use throughout the production. This opening scene immediately intrigued the audience and we were hooked wondering with anticipation what was in store for the remainder of the show. With the technology of zoom we were then whizzed from classroom to classroom effortlessly and excitedly awaiting our next lesson. We studied Portraitology from actor Hugh Brown who played a quirky Art Professor who had the audience in fits of laughter and transported us to our favourite holiday spot through the magic of imagination. 

Philippa O’Hara taught us the art of cosmology which was totally mind blowing, the exquisite special effects and set design really added to the feel of adventure and wonder, I really did feel like I was on the moon! The highlight for me was the Math’s department, (which is unusual for me because when it comes to numbers I am useless!) but our Mathematician Professor played by  Magician Caolan McBride had the audience captivated and left us scratching our heads. The magic was phenomenal, we had to think of certain numbers in order for the trick to work and our magical Professor predicted the audiences numbers exactly without hesitation, with slight of hand magic and everything performed right in front of us. I am still wondering how on earth he predicted the correct numbers.

Caolan McBride performing magic with numbers in CahootsNI’s The University of Wonder and Imagination. Photograph taken by Melissa Gordon.

The cast were engaging throughout and quick to interact with the audience which gave the show a personal and intimate feel. A special mention has to be accredited to sound composer of the show, Garth McConaghie who elevated the cast performances by the use of magical and mesmerizing music. Philippa’s original song was super catchy and wouldn’t have been out of place in a Disney film. 

Overall, The University of Wonder and Imagination is a great spectacle of original and innovative theatre right from the comfort of your own home. Visually it was stunning and the magic performed throughout was incredible. It is a real treat for all the family, both kids and adults will love it. CahootsNI are truly at the forefront of innovative digital theatre with this production and I cannot wait to see what they do next. 

The University of Wonder and Imagination is currently playing at the Belfast International Arts Festival until November 1st, tickets cost £20.00 per screen and you can buy your tickets here >> 


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