Writer and Director: Adrian Berry
Reviewer: Stephen Bates
Yes, we may all have to adjust our holiday habits as a result of the falling pound, but Adrian Berry’s 75-minute one-act play has nothing to do with that. Instead, the title is taken from the lyric of David Bowie’sLife on Mars and the play tells of a teenager’s journey to find his father or, perhaps, David Bowie himself.
On his18th birthday in 2013, Martin is looked on as theweirdoof the drearytown nearNorthampton where he lives. Bullied by other boys, he suffers from eating disorders andisself-harming. His mother is achain-smoking alcoholic and his father hadwalked out on the family16 yearsearlier, leaving behind only a boxfull of Bowie memorabilia and anenvelope to begiven to him on this very day. “Parents f*ck you up,” complains Martin.
Alex Walton is captivating, both when narrating the story in the third person and when switching to play Martin and other characters, Berry’sdescriptive writing is vivid and hisdirection brings out the central character’s tormented isolation whichleads toa pop idolbecominghis only friend. Rob Newman voices Bowie offstage and Margaret Campbell can be heard as Martin’s counsellor.Backprojections add flashes of nostalgia for the 1970s,but the overriding tone is one of mystery, as we wait to discover what Martin;sjourney will bring,
The envelope given to Martin contains a tenner and a sort of treasure trail map leading him around places in London connected to Bowie. He starts at Stockwell Primary school,winds his way through thesouthern suburbsto Croydon, which Bowie despised,and stops off at a pub where he performs an excruciatingkaraoke version of Starman. Then it is on to Soho, astudio where Bowie recorded and Denmark Street where he once hung out with legends. There are touches of humour along the way but not enough of the music that so entrances father and son.
As the journey progresses, the darkness underlying Bowie’s fantasy worlds begins to surface and Martinfinds parallels between his own life and his idol’s troubled early years. It is suggested that the singer’s bizarre creations and his androgynous image camefrom reactions to tragedy andadolescentrebellion against orthodoxy. However, Martin is not equipped tofollow further alongBowie’s path to fame and fortune.
In its later stages, the play is far removed from a euphoric celebration of heroes; it has become a sad lament on behalf of the lost and the lonely,a sobering reflection on the flip side of popular culture.
Runs until 6 November 2016 and then tours | Image: Contributed