FringeReview Scotland 2015
We are introduced to three young people who are at the one school. The new teacher has a brilliant system of awarding gold stars and dragon marks that excites and engages all three pupils. We have one kid who’s in a Women’s Aid hostel, one whose father has serious issues and one who chatters and talks incessantly. The performance sets us up for a workshop based on the audience who has now seen that bullying exists at home, in the classroom/school and how a great teacher might not see everything going on around him.
As a theatre in education piece, this has a tough crowd today. We are not in a school but a newly launched community music centre with an after school group. With an adult to child ratio of 1:2 we may be unlikely to have any unchartered riots though the audience is less cowed than would be expected by such an overwhelming number of adults.
This is a performance piece that sets up the next stage relatively well. The storyline may well contain elements that you would usually associate with bullying – hence nothing new – but the next generation of audience for TiE still need the basics. This was delivered by a well worn but still effective storyline in a 30 minutes or so expose of the basics. The script may have delivered little new but the actors brought to it a freshness that gave it impetus, focus and effect. With Victoria O’Rourke as Jessica, Holly Abercrombie as Sam, Jordan O’Hara as Mr Mitchell and Andrew Reynolds as Mark we got actors who had clearly learnt a lot on tour but it took nothing away from their need to deliver it all once again. Timing was spot on, delivery was great and the song – which by now will be royally bullying their brains – was delivered with the right amount of gusto and understanding.
It was this enthusiasm which drew both expected and unexpected responses from the audience. There were times we got giggles and times we got shock and there were a few times they hit the wrong notes with the right material. Once it had settled though we got a very good run through the issues.
Once we were ready to move into workshop mode this was where I felt we were beginning to stray from getting things bang on to beginning to lose the focus of the audience. The audience up and active onstage was a nice touch, well handled and their return to seated round the “stage” done with little fuss. What I did find a tad over emphatic was responding to their ideas by repeating them back after each person spoke. It left one actor carrying the burden of the question and answer session and the other three, whilst clearly monitoring the behaviour of their well behaved respective groups a tad like a spare part. As the young audience returned to their places, having been involved in a game onstage it did vary the experience enough to probably avoid losing them completely but the high standards of this company should demand a little more innovation?
Despite my minor criticism overall this was a well run performance with a crowd that were up for the afternoon’s challenge. Gold Stars may have given us little by way of new material but there is little new to say or do with bullying. The performance set up the workshop – arguably the real reason for being there – nicely and will no doubt be appearing again at schools and community centres near you for some time to come.