Writer/Director: Keith Saha
Reviewer: John Roberts
In Keith Saha’s latest co-production for 20 Stories High, Liverpool Playhouse and Curve Leicester, Melody not only loses her Mojo but she also loses her way in this hotch-potch production, where the themes come faster then the expletives out of the lead characters mouth.
Saha’s script follows the plight of Melody, a young adolescent who is struggling to survive in the care system. She talks to her imaginary monster backpack Mojo – which was given to her by Harmony her younger sister, who is being adopted by a lesbian couple 180 miles away, while her only real friend Rizla is a small drug dealer and part male prostitute.
If playing theme bingo wasn’t enough, Saha’s production is laden with clichéd language and stereotypical characterisations. Trying to appeal to a younger, less theatrically minded audience is fine, but when a clumsy signposted section at the beginning of the play tries to explain what a freeze frame is, you realise very quickly how misjudged and patronising Melody Loses Her Mojo really is and it never really improves. Saha’s clunky direction on Kate Unwin and Mark Wigan’s garishly colourful and cheap looking set leaves you feeling rather unattached and cold.
Underscoring the whole production is Hannah Marshall on the Double Bass, while world beatboxing champion Hobbit adds his vocal twists throughout, this works rather well when providing the “voice” to Mojo but for the rest of the time feels rather shoe-horned in, almost feeling like an attempt to be relevant and cool to its target demographic.
Remmie Milner as the strong an opinionated Melody has bags of stage presence, and has great chemistry with Darren Kuppan as Rizla. Simone James is delightful as Blessing an immigrant who has temporarily been housed at the care home, while Zoë Hunter and Samuel Dutton come into their own bringing Mojo to life.
Melody Lose Her Mojo needs to go back to the drawing book and decide on what story it wants to tell, it has the promise to be a daring and challenging looks at life within the care system but it struggles to live up to its promise. The creative team could do with watching a few episodes of CBBC’s The Dumping Ground, who manage to be relevant, fresh and hard hitting tackling the same issues but with intelligent unpatronising writing and clichéd stereotypes.