Writer/Director: Adrian Berry
Reviewer: Matt Forrest
From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads: No, this isn’t a cookery programme which sees Delia Smith travelling from the Balearic Islands to Norwich, While cooking up a culinary feast at Ibiza’s hotspots such Manumission and Pacha. It’s a line from the sublime David Bowie masterpiece Life on Mars. It is also the title of the Adrian Berry penned one man play starring Alex Walton. It focuses on Martin, a troubled teenager living with his alcoholic mother. Martin struggles with isolation and an eating disorder. Seemingly the only joy Martin has, is a love for David Bowie and the dream of being reunited with his father who left when Martin was two years old and who was himself a Bowie obsessive.
On Martin’s 18th birthday he is given a letter by his mother from his father: which takes Martin on a journey to London following in his two heroes’ footsteps. He visits places from Bowie’s past which include his childhood home and his primary school. Where will Martin’s adventure take him and will he find the peace-of-mind he is craving?
This is an ambitious and interesting piece of theatre. Walton is superb as Martin; giving him a warmth and vulnerability that only heightens your wish to see him find what he is looking for. Walton also plays the various other characters Martin encounters along the way, from the kindly record store owner to the far from friendly owner of an ailing karaoke bar. Walton manages to hold your attention throughout the 75minute production and it’s testament to this physical, demanding performance and exceptional direction from Berry.
The same cannot be said for the script, which attempts to tackle some weighty issues including mental illness, the desolation of the family unit and creative frustration. Some of these themes are either over explored or barely touched upon. However, the main problem is the distinct lack of joy running throughout the production. We are taken a hedonic odyssey with very little respite from the miserable world Martin inhabits; even the brief moments of joy you so desperately crave are shut down as soon as they begin.
This challenging and thought-provoking production has a lot to say about ‘fandom’, mental illness and the need for escapism. This will undoubtedly attract a number of Bowie’s fans, with the Thin White Duke’s music used sparingly throughout will more than appease them. It’s worth going to see for Walton’s performance alone, however it will leave you twisting the ambiguous ending into a positive for Martin: something I’ve still yet to manage.
Reviewed on 4 February 2017 | Image: Contributed