Shake It Up – Blue Orange Theatre, Birmingham

Reviewer: John Kennedy

Directors: Rachel Green and Gary Archer

Original music: Charlotte Daniel

Original Lyrics: Janet Shipton and Sheila Barnes

Fifty fun-filled minutes about Parkinson’s Disease! What the…who’s their Press Officer – same one as Liz Truss? No – come back – it’s all a commendable ruse wrapped up in a fairytale conceit and hugs-heartening highly hilarious – obviously not a patch on the aforementioned candidate’s pitch for PM but then that’s hardly a level comedic playing field.

Innovative Theatre in Education Comedy Show, Parky Players presents Shake It Upas part of Birminghamfest 2022 developed with Community Vibe and National Lottery funding from Arts Council England. They’re very keen to wear their post-lockdown arts on their collective sleeves celebratinga brand-new theatre company formed on Zoom in lockdown made up of people, and supporters of people, with Parkinson’s – Parky Players – see what they do there?

The success of their sell-out shows in Nottingham and at the Leicester Comedy Festival put a serious spring in their giant leaps on the road toa later August run on Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

A local community group’s weekly meeting goes weirdly manic when a Grimms Bro’ make-over intervention sees them magically transported into a fantasy Snow White and the Seven Symptoms diorama. Sort of alt.hilarity reality with a subtly interwoven stealth theme. You keeping up? It gets weirder. Co-writer, Rachel Green (self-identified Drama Queen) assumes the role of bossy-boots, sarky continuity Emcee, oratorically hyper-Levelling-Up her Northern roots accent to the max.

An ensemble of characters, some of whom have decidedly grabbed their personal Parkinson’s by the fun-horns with relish, immerse themselves in a Village Hall AmDram Panto take on Snow White where they explore the Seven Symptoms of Parkinson’s – the other forty, at least, are for another time. It’s giddy, silly, creaks and groans like a gauche pastiche of itself – but there’s the rub. That’s what Parkinson’s does: farce, farts and tragedy – then there’s the medications – supped down with a poison chalice of side effects. But to Hell and beyond with all that: the mantra is Acceptance, Adaptation, Ambition. There is arm-wringing audience participation in sing-alongs. Plenty of Panto-kitsch, Boos, hisses, and, quite disgracefully, there being children in the audience, a ‘Liz Truss – she’s behind you!’ An embracing mutuality of inclusive reality-theatre therapy for and from the punchy people of tomorrow and let Parkinson’s be damned.

‘Sleepy’ tells Snow White of how her Meds keep her awake across interminable, insomniac nights and so she writes poetry. ‘Could you read me some?’ ‘What…?’ The abruptness startles. Then the poignancy of her disconnection hits like an empathic punch.‘It’s no fairy tale!’ regales the flier. A tad internal narrative dichotomy, ah! They’re being ironic – there’s a lot to be got away with there. Victors on their terms – not victims – these perky Parky Players are well worth the ridiculously low admission ticket tariff alone.

Reviewed on 20 July 2022

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The Central team is under the editorship of Selwyn Knight. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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