Edinburgh Fringe 2011
This nostalgic show charms audiences by evoking childhood memories without cloying sentimentality. In particular, if you were a 90s girl who listened to Spice Girls tapes whilst sat on an inflatable armchair this show will tug at memories and emotions you have forgotten. It is also an enthrallingly inventive example of the unique capabilities of theatre.
The most theatrically inventive piece I have seen at this year’s festival, Colour Me Happy uses nostalgic music, props and images, drawing and colouring in, mime, storytelling, familiar phrases (Girl Power; snap, crackle and pop) and lip-synched speech to create unusual, visceral experimental theatre. It explores childhood and 90s culture through a character called Dot, conveyed simply and effectively by a blue puffa jacket.
The text is rose-tinted but ironic: the nostalgia is never self-indulgent. The primary school memories they explore are not made up or based on half-remembered events but drawn from artefacts – diaries and school council minutes. The latter is a wonderful moment, reminding us of our priorities at that age as we hear children’s voices describe the problems they face regarding toilets, pencils and playgrounds. The devising process has clearly been thoughtful, experimental, and fun. The company use aspects of the shows content to inform the techniques used: a montage of different activities is shown by holding translucent images of different clothes in front of performers, evoking paper dolls, while children’s voices are conveyed by actors breathing in helium from balloons.
Despite the myriad of props and shifts the skilled performers are slick and confident in their movements, and deliver the gentle piece with understated affection and respect. The design is wonderful, the many different props and scenery items all part of a unified image that conveys the flotsam and jetsam of memory. There are some very neat ideas – the black jelly sandals unrolled from their bubblewrap is a particularly effective image, and the different surfaces used for drawing on are clever and well thought out. Some items are underused: the giant coloured pencils are used briefly to hold over Dot as she walks into her primary school, a clever and effective use, but are not used again.
The unique theatrical ideas and skilled execution of this piece make it special and memorable: I recommend it to anyone who enjoys inventive theatre or just wants to remember the primary coloured days of primary school and Girl Power.