Writer/Director: Adrian Berry
Reviewer: Jo Beggs
Martin is a young man with problems – stuck in a small town, with an alcoholic mother, an eating disorder and an absent father who disappeared from his life 16 years ago. As he turns eighteen he’s unsure of how his life can be any more than this, and if that’s the case, what the point is. But there’s one thing that makes his waking hours bearable – David Bowie, the guardian angel left to him by his father by way of a box of vinyl records, photographs and newspaper cuttings. Martin is, there’s no question about it, obsessed.
If the sell-out audiences come for Bowie, they get a good dose of biography as Martin follows a map left for him by his father that takes him on a pilgrimage of Bowie’s primary school, family home, first gig venue and favourite shop. But the show isn’t about Bowie, it’s about a vulnerable teenager whose life hangs in the balance, beautifully portrayed by Alex Walton in this eighty-minute monologue. Walton’s brilliant physical performance and compelling delivery really lift what is a somewhat unimaginative plot. Walton plays a number of other characters – a belligerent barman, the old man who runs the record shop – but it’s Martin that he truly inhabits in a performance that sharply reflects the light and shade of a confused mind, especially successful when Martin is in the depths of depression. In a scene where he loses control in a crowded Piccadilly Circus, the panic attack is genuinely difficult to watch.
With high production values, from Ibiza To the Norfolk Broads feels bigger than a one-man studio show it is. A sparse set transforms into multiple locations through Adrian Berry’s sharp, fast-paced direction, and Tom Clutterbuck’s excellent lighting design. Film (by Mark Morreau) is sparsely and effectively used, mostly to hint at locations. The decision to keep images and film of the man himself to a minimum is admirable, given that the temptation must have been strong. Instead, we just hear snippets of Bowie’s music, excerpts from interviews (voiced by Rob Newman) and a startlingly raw unaccompanied vocal track from Five Years which becomes an extraordinary spoken word performance.
From Ibiza To the Norfolk Broads is at the Lowry for one night only but an extensive tour with dozens of dates takes in plenty of other venues, with the promise of a 2018 Fringe run in Edinburgh in August, this is a show worth catching.
Reviewed on 17 January 2018 | Image: Contributed