Through the thick haze and wash lights, the three piece band of performers that make up Valerie can just be seen, shimmering like figures from the past. Clocking the guitars and drums, you can tell, this is going to get loud. Last Tapes Theatre Company’s Valerie is an intimate, intense and forceful show that combines the shock, awe and atmosphere of gig theatre with a deeply personal and absorbing nature of autobiographical performance.

Valerie does not fail to satisfy.

Robin Kelly plays the grandson of the titular Valerie. He married into a family with a history of mental health disorders. We see how today the youngest of that generation is starting to look back onto his family tree, to consider with new scientific understanding the genetics of such conditions and the ramifications for the current families. This inspires the grandson to attempt to tell the story of his grandmother. It is a grungy rock ballad to the difficulties of love and resilience, particularly when the one you love is suffering, wrapped up in heartbreaking modesty, that Valerie herself doesn't think there is much to tell.

Instead of focusing on a linear plot or empirical truth, the show leans into creating atmosphere, mood and gut-wrenching sensations almost phenomenological in their nature. You can feel the ebbing rage behind some of the tracks that comes off the stage in palpable waves. Frankly, I need more 1950s housewives furiously playing electric guitar in my life. It is such a glorious juxtaposition between original story and the chosen communication method of gig theatre.

The three performers of the ensemble are made up of Valerie’s grandson, Kelly, his partner, Cherie Moore and Tom Broome. There is an eerie mirroring of the generations when the current generation, Kelly and Moore play Valerie and her husband Graham; an uncomfortable doubling that only comes from autobiographical work.

There is always a mistaken perception when people try to make art about science that it is going to be a dull lecture, losing time to make sure the audience is up to speed enough to get the nice metaphor. Valerie succinctly sidesteps this trope because there is the omnipresent reminder that the science had a real personal impact on those on-stage before us.

If you are looking for a warts-and-all examination of the strain mental health disorders can have on a marriage, and the family as a whole for that matter, Valerie does not fail to satisfy.

Reviews by M Johnson

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Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
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Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
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The Blurb

\'I\'m starting to think about genetics, what\'s passed on. What isn\'t. I\'m thinking of my grandmother, Valerie.\' Named Stand-Out Cabaret of the Year by the NZ Herald, Valerie is an intergenerational, interdisciplinary and interrupting piece of theatre reaching into the guts of family mythologies. Music, genetics and storytelling combine to unravel one family\'s history. A love letter from grandson to grandmother, this celebration of resilience is gig theatre at its finest. \'Beautifully polished, striking, recommended\' (NZ Herald). Presented by Last Tapes Theatre Company. Created by Robin Kelly, Cherie Moore, and Tom Broome. Directed by Benjamin Henson.

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