Tales from the MP3

20 Stories High Young Actors Theatre Company’s Tales from the MP3 is an original and dynamic production. Consisting of verbatim accounts of young people’s opinions and experiences on topics like religion, race and sexuality, it feels extremely personal in its construction.

The more poignant scenes are balanced with light-hearted and humorous moments, which impressively do not negate the impact of the serious scenes.

The audience enters and are greeted immediately by a party atmosphere as the cast of eight dance and chat and laugh together. It’s a casual and practical beginning, with one of the cast explaining how the production will work. Each cast member has an MP3 player, through which the verbatim script is dictated. The cast recline casually on beanbags scattered around the stage and a projection on the back wall announces the name of each chapter: “body,” “bullying” and “learning difficulties.”

Uniquely, the actors portray each other. Although at times it is tricky to work out who is playing whom and as we become more engrossed in the individual’s views and experiences, this loses its importance. When portraying each other, each cast member convincingly adopts the voice and body language of that person. Particularly memorable in this area is Bradley Thompson, who adopts the character of his fellow cast member Annie Mukete sensitively and with attention to detail. It soon becomes clear that this technique has been employed to allow the cast members some distance from what they are sharing with the audience, especially considering the emotional content of some of the anecdotes.

The more poignant scenes are balanced with light-hearted and humorous moments, which impressively do not negate the impact of the serious scenes. After a particularly moving moment in which a cast member bravely shares his experiences of the bullying he faced due to his learning difficulties, the actor pauses the scene, returns to himself and shares with the audience how his views have changed. The scene is set with backing by guitar, singing and poetry, and as such allows each actor to display their various talents. It feels simultaneously supportive and empowering.

Reviews by Lottie Scaramanga

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Young People from award-winning 20 Stories High tell each other’s true stories straight from their MP3 players. As they hear the words in headphones, the performers deliver line for line to the audience what they are hearing - live. Verbatim with a twist, and delivered with unflinching honesty, they discuss religion, sex, race, friendship and family. Boys and girls play each other and cultural identity is swapped, revealing challenging and insightful perspectives. With live music, poetry and beatboxing, this is a unique new play from one of the UK’s top theatre companies for young adult audiences.