An original musical about school bullying with only children in the cast might not seem a first choice for top Fringe viewing, but it absolutely is. The production buzzes with energy from beginning to end, the show oozes talent from the young cast, the music is original and the choreography is tight.
The production buzzes with energy from beginning to end
We are introduced to the Tom of the title, sensitively and brilliantly played by Eliot Milward, singing solo with an angelic voice and hinting at the all important back story. He then appears with a big distinctive mark on his face and the exclusion begins to be shown, followed quickly by ostracisation and bullying. Only the new girl at school, Flora, played by Clara Shepherd-Thompson, is keen to find out more about him and why he is so hated. There is a beautiful duet between them while they sing about finding 'a new friend'. Slowly Flora becomes convinced by the others that she too should shun Tom, cleverly shown by her succumbing to peer pressure to safeguard her own social standing, in a very real and believable way. The bullying escalates into physical violence, and eventually cyberbullying which is of course such a current, and often, invisible issue. This is inventively shown with projection of the text conversation and Tom's subsequent reaction. All these scenes are handled with truth and sensitivity and with wonderful acting by Eliot Milward and Clara Shepherd-Thompson particularly. The score is inventive: catchy music and clever lyrics, with waves of harmonies and balance within the songs. As too the dancing: skilled and drilled. These young people can dance, sing and act in this clever, uplifting, poignant story professionally and deftly told.
One song with the refrain 'I am safe when I'm in my home', give us a glimpse of the home life of all the children and it's clear here that whilst, for some, this song is true, for others it's the opposite. Especially poignant is a snippet of a scene during this song with one of the major bullies, which gives us an understanding into his character. The song is beautifully heartbreaking. There are stand out performances from many of the children, but another worth a particular mention is Barnie Gregory who plays Sid. He is hilarious and has a crazy amount of stage presence for someone so young. Yes there were a couple of pitchy moments in one or two songs and the ending is perhaps too neat and quick, but overall this is a hugely emotionally impactful show which the packed audience appreciated with whoops, cheers plus the odd tear, at the end.