Brighton Fringe 2016
Sparkleshark performed by The Young Actors Group ADVANCED and directed by Ross Drury is a captivating story of the transformative power of storytelling for young people in the modern world. The cast skilfully eased us into sharing and making judgements of their external brutal and hurtful natures, then reeled us in to witness their internal vulnerabilities and support their redemption. Packed with powerful monologues and poignant moments the cast invited you to relate to those feelings in adolescence regardless of age.
Sparkleshark is a stage play by Philip Ridley that was originally commissioned for the BT National Connections for the National Theatre’s youth theatre scheme in 1997. Sparkleshark had a professional run at the Royal National Theatre in 1999 followed by a tour in 2001. The play is part of Ridley’s sequence of plays for young people ‘The Storyteller Sequence’ which share thematic similarities, the most distinct being the redemptive power of storytelling. Ridley in his writing manages to capture the juxtaposition between the violence and vulnerability of young people by his ebb and flowing style.
The plot is set on a rooftop in East London and it revolves around the interactions of 14-16 year old’s from different social groups. We first meet Jake played by Finlay Crother-Wade who sensitively portrays a young man living in constant fear and Polly, a new student who has become fascinated by Jake and is played by Madeleine Philpott.
Madeleine throughout the piece delivered a powerfully provocative performance where at pivotal moments invited the audience in to experience the pain of this story, as well as drawing in her fellow actors. The thoroughly enjoyable Natasha and Carol dynamics and Russell (who we may all have met at some point at school!), played by Star McFarlane, Juliette Moore, Jonny Davidson, brought with them charm, wit and innocence backed by the twins Buzz and Speed, Shane and the rest of the cast who without many lines were engaged fully throughout the piece.
At times the audibility of the lines were lost and the cast would benefit from developing their vocal techniques particularly when performing in a church space. The stage set was strewn with rubbish and was utilised well in the performance to represent the imaginary world, however at times it seemed too cluttered and the cast would benefit from a bit more space as they navigate the story world.
Overall this is an engaging piece of theatre and a must for young people to experience that they too are not alone. The cast clearly have an empathic and strong commitment to the piece and each other.