Spaghetti Junction

The concept of the ‘Manic Pixie Dream Girl’ is a character trope describing a grown woman totally in touch with her inner child, free spirited, kooky and playful, the sort who will teach us what’s really important in life through her carefree ways (Zooey Deschanel in most of her movies). This new devised piece from This Egg tests this character to its limits with the story of Andi, a girl who has refused to grow up. She still rides a bike with stabilisers, calls her job ‘playing offices’ and always dresses for a party in fancy dress, whether it’s appropriate or not. It is probable, given her otherwise improbable success with a man, that this child-like behaviour is a metaphor for her refusing more widely to grow up, but it isn’t clear. Lack of clarity is a problem elsewhere, too.

This is an engagingly performed, very funny show, but being a first piece from a quartet of talented 19-year-olds without a director, it suffers from common issues with devised work, including the fact that the narrative frame is unsatisfyingly vague, and we don’t get a sense of who the face-painted chorus around Andi are: her subconscious? Her friends? Both? Andi’s move towards an acceptance of her new adulthood is not evenly paced; it takes a whole lot of set-up to show that she’s free and childish before a late plot development suddenly changes everything, sending us headlong into a rather baldly stated ending manifesto for individuality. This manifesto is, however, touchingly unclichéd, accepting that ‘it’s ok if I’m not different’, rejecting the pathological embrace of quirk that characterises an MPDG. And it nails perfectly the question we all ask ourselves: when will the specific moment we all grow up finally arrive?

The physical sequences aren’t standout, but they are efficient. I worry that the actors might have been slightly too taken with the cutesiness of the storytelling techniques they are using; they are none of them too new, and telling a story about a grown child by being excessively childlike can be a little irritating. That said, a one-night stand told through a childish prism is a lot of fun and all the performers are extremely comic and clearly headed for good things. They just need the discipline of a director to ensure that the story is completely clear, worth telling, and well-paced. I wish them success as they head off into theatrical maturity.

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The Blurb

Andi needs a new route. She's stuck in a one-way system. Can she navigate through the chaos ahead? Featuring song, movement and storytelling. ‘A beautiful reflection on growing up and the absurdities of life’ ***** (WhatsOnStage.com, for Vertigo).

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