Based loosely on events surrounding a true local story, the development of the play area in Longleaze but really a story of community and coming of age this is a beautifully crafted new musical. Jack Thorne has delved into his own past here as his father was deeply involved in the building of adventure playgrounds in Bristol and the Longleaze example is still in use today. The script also uses memories from those involved and on the night we were there a number of the people of Longleaze were also in attendance - theatre of the people, from the people, for the people!
Jeremy Herrin's direction keeps this production bowling along at an amazing pace. The set cleverly gives us all we need, both in terms of depicting the playground but also a wide variety of heights and perspectives to maintain interest. Music is spot on, not lyrical songs but the chants of children .. oh, and a delightful "Headmaster's Song" that pretty well any teacher will relate to! Extrememly effective and full of earworms! This is a spider, this is a ship ...
Most of the cast play thirteen year old, troubled, children - and they do it amazingly well. The dialogue has the smack of truth and their delivery of it is perfectly pitched. In fact, although the story, in terms of narration, belongs to Fiz, this is definitely an ensemble piece - and one without a weak link to be seen!
Erin Doherty's Fiz is completely credible and highly watchable and Josef Davies' Ginger is a genuine delight but the entire cast throw themselves into the show with a huge amount of gusto and commitment and, as a direct consequence, we are carried into the lives of 1970's kids and made to genuinely care about their stories and lives. Masses of laughter but also a few tears - what more could an audience ask for. A genuine masterclass in ensemble performance.
This is a superb new musical that I hope gets more life than its three currently planned venues (the co-producing companies in Bristol Old Vic, Rose Theatre Kingston and Theatr Clwyd).
I thoroughly enjoyed this unplifting and thought provoking show and would happily see it again. And again. It really is that sort of experience.