Edinburgh Fringe 2018
Enchanting, uplifting and delightfully silly, there’s a message for everyone inside this piece of innovative dance and mime.
Watching the kids negotiating who was going to sit by whom made interesting pre-show viewing – who Mummy had to stick by caused much debate but, as the lights dimmed on the audience and came up on the stage, focus swiftly shifted to the man, head down on his desk, asleep.
Why was he there? What was he doing? Wait a minute, he’s not really asleep. Look, his finger is moving. Now two fingers are moving, now his hand, his arm! Now all of him is moving! No it isn’t, his bottom is stuck to the chair. Look! He’s got tape on his bottom! He’s stuck to the chair. He wants to come and join us. But what’s that strange voice telling him “no”, he can’t? We want to be his friend.
That’s a rough summary of the multi-track, running commentary that Andy Manley’s splendid piece of mime and dance generated in the first couple of minutes from not just the younger, less inhibited element of those watching at Dance Base’s beautifully appointed studios down in the Grassmarket.
Part of Made In Scotland’s impressive 2018 Fringe showcase, Stick By Me is, at one level, a quite enchanting piece of dance, mime and physical theatre about friendship and play, about the importance of treasuring little things. At another level, this intricately choreographed and staged piece is a very deep, thought provoking and extended allegory about what adults, through societal pressures, are perhaps inadvertently doing to the next generation.
Childhood (to this ancient pensioner at any rate) seems strangely restrictive these days, with the need to stay in visual contact with a parent placing strict boundaries on what a child can do and where it can do it. It’s so easy, the piece suggests, to say “no” to a child. So difficult to loosen the harness, say “yes” and let the child learn through playing, through experimenting, through getting things wrong.
Andy Manley certainly knows how to attract and retain the attention of his audience. His eyes and rubber face engage and enchant both the young and the not so young. The attention span of the former is generally the length of a gnat’s whiskers, but his constant movement, superb use of props and winsome expression ensure that everyone remains focused on the stage. His befriending of a simple lolly stick is utterly convincing as is the pathos he injects when said stick is accidentally snapped during some rather rigorous horse-play. But along comes a bit of tape to stick things back together and it all ends happily with Manley and “friend” departing the auditorium, confident that together they can conquer the great big world that awaits outside.
The strength of this piece lies in its attention to detail, in terms of movement, type and use of props and in Manley’s performance. One moment he is whirling around the stage, creating mayhem with sticky tape, the next he’s stock still except for an eyebrow twitching, a finger moving, an arm extending. Colours and faces attract our attention and to capture and hold those who’s span is limited. These were deployed to great effect throughout this thoughtful, enchanting, uplifting yet delightfully silly piece of theatre, wherein lies a message for all.