We all remember the feeling of temptation to open the box that we’re not supposed to open as a small child. Judging by his excellent performance in Stick By Me, Andy Manley does too. On a minimal but hugely effective set, he goes on a complete adventure with a cast of other characters – all of them lolly sticks.
Stick by Me is not to be missed
Both the materials and Manley’s performance perfectly invoke the gestures and attitudes of the play of young children. He has a chair, a school desk with a top that lifts, a cardboard box, and a couple of pillars covered in rolls of tape. With these few but well-used props and the titular sticks, Manley conjures a whole world of play, friendship, loss, fear, and discovery.
His depiction of the trepidation when faced with new things, and the irresistible temptation of opening boxes one isn’t supposed to open, were particularly impressive and resonant with the young audience members. Proving their engagement, several children of various ages in the audience kept up a running commentary, including one girl not more than two who repeatedly wanted to know “what’s in the box?” as Manley worked himself up to opening it.
Manley is supported by fantastic music and sound design from Will Calderbank. The music is well used but not overbearing, and the moments of silence and incredibly fun and precise sound effects not only drove the plot and character development of the sticks, but also added immeasurably to the overall performance. The use of materials – especially tape – in childlike ways was inspired. Who among us wouldn’t love to use up a whole role of tape just for the fun of it?
Stick by Me is not to be missed by children or anyone who was once a child. The memory of creating a whole imaginary world out of the bare minimum of materials is something we all share, and Andy Manley brings that memory to wonderful life.