Monday, 14 November 2016

Chapter 161: From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads

Photo: Ben Hopper

Time - He's waiting in the wings
He speaks of senseless things

His script is you and me, Boy

Time, David Bowie

If you are a regular reader to this blog, or a circus geek, you will know Adrian Berry as the Artistic Director of Jacksons Lane, a theatre with an eclectic programme that sponsors contemporary circus and encourages experimentation. Ade also tours regularly as bassist with his band Alberteen, and has an encyclopedic knowledge of music, my favourite report back from the Edinburgh Fringe this year comparing each circus performance there to an album and a band (click here). And, like any music nerd with impeccable taste, Ade is a huge Bowie fan. Earlier this summer Jacksons Lane took the audience on a Fantastic Voyage of circus acts celebrating Bowie's music, and now Ade takes us on an altogether different and harrowing odyssey in his play From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads. A one-man show, it features Alex Walton giving a poignant and mesmerising performance as a vulnerable teenager called Martin, who receives a present on his 18th birthday that sets him on a quest for reconciliation to a past that will decide his future. 

Photo: Ben Hopper
I saw the play at Waterloo East Theatre, an intimate space, packed to the rafters. Martin entered to Sinatra's "I did it my way"... if the audience were expecting a night simply regurgitating Bowie's top tracks, they were in for a shock. The play was not so much a tribute evening, but an engaged response and exploration of the power Bowie's music had to transform the cultural landscape of so many. Take Martin, a bulimic, socially anxious teenager, product of the Larkin school of parenting (quoting "They fuck you up, your Mum and Dad..."). Living with the empty shell of his alcoholic Mum in a terraced house in the back end of nowhere in the Midlands (as flat as the Norfolk Broads), "a place where people live and die and nothing in between", Martin found an escape through Bowie's music when he discovered a chest of memorabilia left by a father long-since gone. And then on his milestone birthday, a letter from his Dad, written ahead of time, provided him with a map that would take him on a physical journey down to London, retracing his Dad's footsteps and imagining the world through his eyes as he visits landmarks from David Bowie's life.

From what I knew of the play ahead of time, I had gone prepared for a dark, depressing evening, tissues at the ready. It was a powerfully sad play, there were tears, but it was the sheer beauty of the production that also moved me. I loved the co-existence of the surreal and the spartan in the set design. The text was rich and lyrical, propelling the action forward under Ade's direction so there was never a pause or a lag. Alex Walton gave a riveting performance as Martin, with a raw energy that conveyed Martin's fresh-faced excitement when he bartered vinyls for a bus fare to London, in a wonderful exchange, his sheer joy at finding himself in Bowie's old bedroom or his bewilderment and pain after a karaoke turn doing Starman in the roughest dive in Croydon... Throughout, Bowie was there, a tangible presence, waiting in the wings, an iconic costume on either side of the stage suspended behind some gauze, visible as though through a glass darkly, the ghost of his voice evoked in voiceovers by the comedian Rob Newman. It felt as though if you concentrated hard enough, he might actually materialise.  I tried, you know. I stayed long after the rapturous applause had died down and the punters left, just contemplating the set, soaking up the atmosphere and the music still playing. The play made an impact, you see, just like Bowie's music, and in that sense it really captured his spirit. As I stepped outside, I felt my universe had shifted. And the stars look very different today. 

Photo: Ben Hopper

From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads is currently on tour (see
The play will be at Jacksons Lane for two performances on 4 December (see

Update: After sell-out performances and rave reviews, From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads returns to Jacksons Lane on 27 February 2017.
Click here to book tickets:

2 August 2017 update: From Ibiza... is showing at The Pleasance at the Edinburgh Fringe until 28 August. Book here:

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