Writer: Katie Douglas
Director: George Perrin
Reviewer: Jay Nuttall
Embarking on an eight-week tour following a month’s run at the Edinburgh Festival, Paines Plough present three plays in repertoire in their incredible touring Roundabout theatre with an offering for children in the form of the fantastical I Got Superpowers for My Birthday. As part of the Love Eccles Festival this show, aimed at 7+, asks what would happen if you really had super powers.
On the verge of turning 13, William, Ethan and Fiona are three very different kids in school. They may be exactly the same age but they hardly know one another. In fact, they are all a little bit lonely and isolated in their frustrating not quite child / not quite adult world. This may be their only thing in common with one rather large exception. On the eve of their birthdays,they inexplicably gain super powers overnight and wake up not only as teenagers but with powers to produce fire, freeze and shake the ground like an earthquake.
What follows is a series of challenges placed before them in the guise of several monsters. Gargoyles, goblins, a bizarrely named giant flying slug called Barbara, and a deliciously camp dragon are all set against our trio who learn to work together in order to defeat their foes. But as they learn a little more about this strange new world, they have been thrown into they also begin to unearth some unsettling truths about who they are and where they came from.
There is no doubting that this is about as fantastical and strange a piece of fiction as it gets. Katie Douglas’ script lurches wildly from one crisis to the next keeping the story moving as fast as a speeding bullet. It feels a little like a story that has been given its own superpower of lightning speed. Impressively, the actors, Remy Beasley, Richard Corgan and Andy Rush, keep up the frenetic pace for the whole show. And full credit must also go to the technical operator who must have hundreds of sound and lighting cues as the story whizzes by. Director George Perrin has set his cast the task to story tell, inhabit wild and strange characters and engage the audience with precise and rapid slick transformation.
All too often, however, the 13-year-old characters feel more like eight or nine-year-olds. With references to pass the parcel at a party and their acceptance to ‘play’ super heroes, there are some instances when the characters feel more the age of the intended audience rather than young adults. And excitingly fast-paced as the story is the speed only goes to serve the story rather than allowing us to scratch the surface a little more. We learn that William’s mother has left and that Fiona spends evenings alone but it would be nice to invest a little more time with them. At times the style and text of the show overpowered any emotional truth that may lurk underneath.
With such high energy storytelling, I Got Superpowers for My Birthday is an impressive piece of theatre but without time to catch breath any heart of the play is all too often overlooked.
Runs until 11 September 2016 – then tours until 30 October | Image: Contributed