May 1st, 2015


Births Deaths & Marriages

New Wolsey Young Associates have been touring their short play for months but we had yet to see it because of sundry diary clashes. Tonight it was being staged at the New Wolsey Studio as part of the Pulse Festival 2015. Four members of the young company worked with Rob Salmon (Associate Director of the New Wolsey Theatre) and three of their colleagues to create a funny moving exploration of decisions at the beginning of adulthood. This was another full house and we were lucky to get seats.

The full cast of three men and a woman, all aged about 21, were sitting in a row at the start of the show. A young man carrying a backpack stood, stepped to a microphone, and began a shouted conversation with unseen parents as he left the suburban Ipswich house projected on the big screen at the back of the stage. Unecessary shouting is my only serious criticism of the work of this company; in this case the shouting makes sense but why have a microphone if the lines are shouted? As the youth (played by Sam Rhodes) described his walk Ipswich landmarks were projected in sequence behind him but the setting is not Ipswich because that sequence is not compatible with the townscape and some features do not exist. Until the script mentioned a motorway this disjunction between text and landscape was a disorienting psychogeography; because the boundary between fact and fiction was unclear. It becomes clear that the youth is leaving home forever; he has no known destination and no firm motivation except a desire to get away.

A dishevelled besuited man (Jack Tricker) shouts abuse at him. A distressed woman (Gemma Raw) in a little black dress has a meltdown in the street as she carries very high silver pave heels. A tall man (Tom Chamberlain) accosts the walker with jocular menace. Then we learn the circumstances of each of these strangers. We see how the four people each face life-changing decisions about death, about marriage, and about birth. Each segment is counterpointed with projected images and texts that illustrate or comment upon the action and most of the action is described by inactive cast members in an unobtrusively integrated audio description that makes the show accessible to people with impaired vision. Despite its unashamedly theatrical form there is a realism to the shows delivery that lends it a powerful authenticity. Each character engaged the audience's sympathy even while we were laughing at the absurdity of their circumstances or their responses. And parts of the production were pure comedy: the use of projections to reveal a character's inner monologue and the use of karaoke to carry the narrative were particular triumphs.

The use of broad humour and the direct literalism of the projections do not detract from subtle complexities of the piece. Overtly this is an exploration of decisions and relationships; particularly family relationships. Implicitly, however, it is about the journey through any transition and this is quietly emphasised by the recurrent motif of modes of transport. Transportation or, more precisely, the places associated with transit are delineated with ingenious projections of destination boards; another example of the cleverness inherent to every aspect of the show.

Need I make my recommendation explicit? If you are in Edinburgh in August then do seek out this thoroughly pleasing show,