Super Tramp

Super Tramp is based on the real life of Shane Fox who, at the age of fifteen, was told a piece of information that changed his life forever. Shane must handle living on the streets, loss and the alcoholism that plagued his family. It's a monologue play, split between soliloquies and interaction with unseen characters. Dressed in a Superman costume, we see Shane grow from a schoolboy to a grown adult, reflecting on all he has overcome.

Rivers is a better actor than this show allows him to be.

The thing about basing a play on this real life story is that, as unusual as it is, it's not presented to us in extraordinary enough a manner to make it captivating theatre. Michael Rivers, the performer who also wrote the piece, wanted to keep it as true-to-life as possible, honouring Fox's story. While this is admirable, it doesn't push the story to the extreme that makes fiction exciting. On the other hand, it isn't presented as accurate, verbatim theatre in a clear enough way for us to appreciate its truthfulness. Unfortunately, it's not only the narrative that fails to grab our attention: the script is poor and demonstrative. On waking up with a hangover, Shane clutches his forehead and says, "Oh my God, my head." It's predictable too: the father-son activities he and his dad take part in are fishing and car mechanics. Because we have to realise quite quickly who each imaginary character is, we must be spoon-fed details in a way that comes across as unnatural. It's a shame that such an interesting life history can fail to hold our attention.

However, Rivers is a better actor than this show allows him to be. The sections of direct address to the audience are fresh and sincere and he manages to surprise us with superhero backflips and acrobatics. His openness as a vulnerable fifteen-year-old boy is touching. My favourite moment of the show is a precarious walk across empty bottles, ingeniously yet simply reflecting Shane's struggle with the temptation of alcohol. It is difficult to sustain a one-man show, especially one that's full of technical challenges like choppy scene changes and non-existent scene partners. For the most part, Rivers is convincing, although some of the responses lack spontaneity.

There could be a future for the story of Shane Fox in theatre and it's good source material. This isn't the right incarnation of it, but I look forward to seeing what Michael Rivers does next.

Reviews by Cara Ballingall

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The Blurb

‘The world stops for no one, pick yourself up and make it better’. d’Animate explores the uncomfortable, remarkable and inspiring true story of Shane Fox. If your mother was shot dead could you forgive the person who did it? Even if that person was your father? This long-awaited d’Animate original has been written and devised by Michael Rivers for his debut one-man show. Using stunning devices and a range of mediums to tell a one-man tour de force, Super Tramp is guaranteed to inspire. ‘Michael Rivers was superb’ ( ‘Physical poetry!’ ***** (