Writer: Simon Marshall
Director: Alice Wordsworth &Erin Blackmore
Reviewer: Bethan Highgate-Betts
Part of The Bike Shed Theatres’ From Devon With Love season of local offerings comes Zips, the story of Dan and his life in the sleepy sea side town of Teignmouth.A work in progress performance by A&E Productions, the cast and crew of Zips had just 2 weeks to bring this production together. The magnitude of this task is a testament to their commitment to Simon Marshall’s witty and often poetically written script.
Zips follows Dan [Tobias Grace] as he navigates his way round A Levels, university applications and pining for his best friend Rich [Janoux Gerber]. Dan was 13 when his family decided to up-sticks and move to a vicarage on Devon’s South coast. That was five years ago, and Dan and his sister Eliza [Eden Hastings] are still having a little trouble adjusting.
The performances are strong, particularly from the central cast, and the characters and issues feel real and personal. Being a University company, the cast all have similar ages, which does on occasion create a slight confusion at Dan and Eliza being the same age as their Mother. There is also the issue of an inconsistent accent that makes the audience laugh for all the wrong reasons, this is a shame given the craft and style of wit within the dialogue.
Although Dan’s story can sometimes feel a little predictable, his sister Eliza’s story makes for a strong and engaging journey. Her confusion and empowerment is generally speaking more relatable than Dan’s budding cartography obsession and this supporting story really holds the pace and created intrigue within the family dynamic.
The set leaves a little to be desired, rope tied up around all four corners of the ceiling, and crates for the actors to sit on facing off stage when their characters were not in use. Although the use of fairy lights makes the space feel homely and each setting changed with ease into somewhere new with a simple adjustment.
The use of Teignmouth-based band Muse’s music feels forced in its intros and exits, but this doesn’t take away from the quiet charm of the piece.
The story wasn’t gripping, or even particularly interesting, yet Zips merges engaging performances with endearing characters and a steady flow of wit. If A&E Productions can create a piece with this much heart in just two weeks it would be interesting to see what they could do with more time.
This hour-long performance about a brother and sister that are in limbo with their lives feels as if, with a little more time and work, it could become something really special.
Runs until 26 January 2017 | Image: Contributed