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Brighton Fringe 2010

The Jumble Book

Don't Feed the Poets/Justine Coe

Venue: Upstairs at Three and Ten


Low Down

A one-person tale of dyslexia, told and performed poetically, musically, with pictures and much audience participation.


 A lot of very lovely things happen in this show – even before the performer has stepped onto the stage. Dont Feed the Poets’ Paul Stones hands out felt bits and felt picture pads for adults and children to create mini-masterpieces which, we are promised, will be used later in a show which aims itself at many different age groups at once, exploring dyslexia whilst lighting us all up with skilled performance poetry, singing and story telling.

More lovely things include the splendid projected illustrations of Ed Boxall, recreated live as well by the multi-talented Justin Coe who tells us a tale of Jumble, a boy with dyslexia who discovers that stories do not need written words to light up an audience. As the illustrations appear, they become the cue for Justin to act out the characters, and soon we are quaking before the sterm Mrs Fog, the stuck-up Claire Cloggs, and, my favourite of them all, the wonderfully rounded (in many different ways) Dr. Jigsaw.
This is a show of poetry, picture, music and story, of comedy and audience interaction, and there’s a message here too. Most of all, as theatre, its a fun show of jumbled words, and putting things on back to front. Adorned with just a guitar and a generose dose of Charisma, Justin had us clapping and smiling. Oh, and the children really it as well, as we hear the tale of Jumbel, er, Jumble..
On a more seious notes, in an age of overstructure, the Jumble Book celebrates the importance of jumbliness, of whatever, of not knowing what comes next. We need to also love serendipity, not just plans. Simple props are a strong feature of the dramatic element, the story book, all pasted bits assumes a magical, solemn aura as Justin reads from it.
The poetry is often beautiful, loaded with a sense of high craft, the delivery plays with mood, rhythm. Peter Coates’ music is is a perfect addition to the piece.
A story about dyslexia, the Jumble boy who can’t spell his name, the messge was, I suspect, too complex for the age group in this audience. What age range is this aimed at? I’d say at leaset over 7 or 8, yet some of the activities seemed aimed at younger ages. Some parts of the show need a bit more humour. The six year old I cane with found it hard to follow the story and wasn’t quite sure if Justin was trying to scare him sometimes. I was a bit terrified during the test!
Jumble wakes up to his own creativity and value despite not being able to read. Jumble is clever at stories, and this is a strong message, well presented. There are moments when it reaches brilliant – poetry, story telling, and sheer charm emanating from the personal magic of Justin himself.
The show is at it’s best when the audience are partcipating and when Justin’s fine skill as a performance poet is let loose. It works less well when the script steps too clumsily into adult conceptual territory. All in all an inventive show, rich and heartful – not quite sure (from an audience viewpoint) of who it is addressing, but well worth an hour of your time. 


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