Edinburgh Fringe 2019
“It’s 1981 and ska music pulses. Young Ashley creates havoc by getting lost in a wild, imaginative world while Mum longs to return home to Barbados. When Jedi battles and forest adventures go too far, will Mum resort to the scariest threat of all? Accompanied by an original soundtrack and stunning video animation.”
This is a wonderful family show and I guarantee you will be singing the theme song under your breath for days. The Complicite Company has a track record for making outstanding work through extensive periods of research, bringing together performers, designers, writers, artists and others specialists from a range of disciplines. And it really shows in their new production.
Three dedicated performers take on this meaty and rich show, with consistent energy, passion and well sculpted talent. This is Catherine Alexander’s adaptation from a children’s book by Nigel Gray and Michael Foreman, which explained the number of children in the audience who seemed to recognise the characters, I noticed lots of parents smiling and nodding and looking down at their children. I wasn’t familiar with the book but could guess it was popular from their enthusiasm.
The story centres around a single Mum and her young teenage daughter in Thatcher’s Britain. The Mum is a hard working Nurse who comes home to unfinished chores and kitchen tables overturned to protect from the lethal gamma rays of a Death Star! The daughter has a very vivid fantasy life. Her constant companion, her invisible friend only seen by her and the audience, is a ska reggae DJ. This is 1981. Mrs Cole is the baby cooking, faceless monster of a woman that is threatened to our young fantasist when her Mum has had enough of her day dreaming and messy games. She lives in a “dirty house”! But rumours and gossip aren’t to be taken seriously. Often the very opposite is true. There a good lesson here for our audience, young and old.
Three dedicated performers take on this meaty and rich show, with consistent energy, passion and well sculpted talent. Rich vocals with high energy dance and solid relatable dialogue and inventive visuals make this an extremely high quality production.
I really enjoyed this show, I related to the daughter as well as the Mother. I laughed, I was moved, and I sat back and just really enjoyed the creative vision of this work.
The set design together with the impressive script adaptation, the music score, the directors clear vision and the performers incredible talent and solid performance alone make this an outstanding show. But what makes it even more special is the unique flavour of the ska and reggae inspired soundtrack running throughout, which is visually manifested through and onto the set. This music is symbolic and political in so many ways. The black and white floor squares, the costumes, the detail in the interiors of the stage rooms, the projections across the stage all add powerfully to the political and cultural narrative that simmers away inescapably in the background. The themes of poverty in 1980s Britain, immigration and racism are explored lightly but effectively, making this such an interesting piece of work. There are themes that a young audience can tag along onto to overtly – such as feeling misunderstood – growing pains. The loneliness of a single parent family. And there are deeper darker themes that weave in and out of these, more aimed at the older audience. It’s almost as if we are watching two important pieces of work running side by side. It is also a pure experience of nostalgia for the adults in the room for whom this music and era was a big part of their lives, immersing us fully into this retro atmosphere.