Ashley (Ellice Stevens) has just moved to a new town. She finds some other children who tell her to break into the house of the Birdman (Alex Welsh) and steal something. His house, she discovers, is full of junk: cardboard boxes, old furniture and other mismatched trinkets. For him though, the objects have deep meaning, they are souvenirs from his past. Over 55 playful minutes, the unnamed Birdman tells Ashley some of these memories in a fun and gently moving exploration of childhood and the power of storytelling.
A piece of understated magic with universal appeal, Souvenirs shows much promise and avoids many of the pitfalls of similar shows.
Each section is written by a different writer, yet under Sam Wightman’s assured direction and the cast’s boundless enthusiasm everything just about hangs together. Alexandria Wallace sets the tone well with an enthusiastic introduction that captures childish imagination beautifully. Grace Holme’s intricate and poetic memory about Birdman’s alcoholic mother is tonally distinct from its surroundings but is slightly too much for the production to contain. Nevertheless, an inventive use of props – the ensemble transform Birdman’s souvenirs into the details of each his stories of his past – and some simple but effective physical routines mean that there is always something visually interesting going on, even if the writing occasionally loses focus.
The acting is stellar: the ensemble members are able multi-rolers and Stevens and Welsh manage to forge a touching and tender relationship amidst the colourful chaos. Like many pieces of original theatre from young companies, Souvenirs slightly overstays its welcome – Max Kennedy’s final memory, “Fabric”, is by far the longest of the three and could lose some of its flab – but it remains engaging throughout. The star of the show is undoubtedly music director Michael Chidgey, whose constant underscore of multi-instrumental live looping propels the action forward and, like the production itself, it’s fun, technically adept and constructs great things from layering simple elements together.
A piece of understated magic with universal appeal, Souvenirs shows much promise and avoids many of the pitfalls of similar shows. A wonderful Fringe souvenir.