DramaNorth East & YorkshireReview

Mobile – Harrogate Theatre

Devised by: The Paper Birds

Co-Directors: Jemma McDonnell, Kylie Walsh

Projection, Video & Sound: The Media Workshop

Reviewer: Ron Simpson

An audience of up to eight people sits in a conventionally comfortable caravan while the rain beats on the roof (at least it did on the first night in Harrogate) and a pleasantly chatty young woman hands round biscuits and talks discursively about her mother and her upbringing.

She turns the television on to show a series of extracts to do with aspirations and equal opportunities, then the whole caravan comes alive for a 40-minute presentation on class and social mobility – the title, Mobile, puns on the mobile home and social mobility. The young woman whose name turns out to be Cindy (played at this performance with earnest naturalness by Shona Cowie) tells of the need to get away from her home streets and the pain that causes her mother, but often she just sits there reading a book or working at her desk as other testimonies reveal themselves.  

Extracts from interviews carried out by Dr. Sam Friedman burst out from kitchen utensils; shelves open up to show Cindy’s home street; the window of the caravan lights up to represent outer space (a desire to be an astronaut was one of her earliest ambitions); the caravan seems to rock into forward motion, as the receding site appears through the windows.

As a piece of immersive theatre Mobile is fascinating and at the end, in Cindy’s last speech, personally moving. The effects conjured up by The Media Workshop are often astonishing. The Paper Birds’ claims for their political agenda (“taking big socio-political subjects”) may be a little overstated – the medium is more exciting than the message – but Mobile is undoubtedly a unique and stimulating piece of theatre.

At the end of a long tour, The Paper Birds have landed next to Harrogate’s Royal Hall for four days, with as many as ten performances some days. The programme lists three actors alternating as Cindy, with Olivia Birchenough and Georgie Coles sharing the role with Cowie.

Runs until 22 October 2017 | Image: Richard Davenport

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