Edinburgh Fringe 2010
‘Robbie Wakes’ tells the story of 7-year-old Robbie Whistler, caught up in a terrorist attack on an underground train. I had my reservations about seeing this production. Some would say it’s too soon for a piece of this nature, and part of me wondered if a young company would be able to handle it’s demands. But I was wrong to have such reservations. ‘Robbie Wakes’ is truly exceptional.
Some of the greatest productions I have ever seen have had a puppet as a central character, and ‘Robbie Wakes’ has recently joined my collection of favourites. Robbie is played by a small, fragile looking puppet, in lovingly made sky-blue giraffe pyjamas. He is a beautiful little 7-year-old boy, brought to life with skill and care. He breathes, and laughs, and cries with a touching realism – the wonderful result of his two main puppeteers’ truthful investment in him.
The effect of this alone is outstanding, but the production has so much more to offer as well. The staging and direction is superb. Director Hal Chambers demonstrates an astounding creativity, with a visionary quality. A glowing juggling ball becomes an inviting idea; a swarm of train tickets the sudden burst of pain and memory. In a sequence where Robbie recounts the accident, there was a beauty and sensitivity at work that took my breath away, and as he dreamt of happier times in the past the entire audience was held spellbound by a visual feast.
And this is still not all, the music, lighting, and writing are also all of the highest quality; vividly bringing the story to life, and quietly supporting such an difficult story. Yes, it could be noted that these are young, non-professional performers, and as you’d expect, some are better actors than others. But for me the fact that these were, just – boys -held a great deal of the magic.
It is a real shame that this show didn’t play the entire Edinburgh run. I wish I’d known about it sooner; I would have gone again.
Whenever, and wherever this company and this play return, seek them out. You won’t regret it. Beautifully uplifting, and terribly sad; funny, fantastical, and yet real; Robbie Wakes is an outstanding show that brought the audience to its feet, and the grown man next to me to tears.