The sound check is still on as the audience shuffles in from the rain. The band members smile gently while tuning their instruments, exchanging personal remarks, or chatting in a laid back way to familiar faces in the crowd. There’s a person in the front row watching the show for the eight time. Olivia Sweeney, the apparent front woman of the band, narrator and performer who will be playing the central character Jessie in the story, informally plans a pre-show party for the fan’s tenth return visit to the show.
This deliberate (though somewhat counter-intuitive) removal of the fourth wall is a well placed device which serves to get us all off to a shared start and ensure we travel a longer distance together than might have been possible if we had just walked into a pre-set world. If this were just a theatre show, and the actors were on stage already, we might have expected to walk into an already created atmosphere. If it were a gig, we’d be either be waiting for a while in vacuous suspense for the band members to take their positions or at least they’d have warmed up already.
But this is not just a mere gig or a straightforward theatre show, and no one is a single star here – instead, what the gig theatre format makes possible is a subtle actualisation of the piece’s central claim that ‘we are all stardust and dreams’!
It is not hard to see how Electrolyte became a multiple-award-winning smash hit of the Edinburgh Fringe 2018. The production teems with talent and thrills, twenty-something-olds’ anguish and the ultimate hard-earned feelgood factor.
The story, rendered in verse, is a rollercoaster ride courtesy of Leeds-based party girl Jessie. A girl crush on an other-worldly musician Allie Touch (played by the equally other-worldly performer that is the show’s composer Maimuna Memon), a surprise letter from her estranged mother, a fall out with her best friend – we follow closely as Jessie lives through a quick succession of seemingly life-changing events catapulting her on an ill-judged adventure to London.
Various band members step in and out of multiple roles. Besides Memon, Wildcard’s co-artistic director and the show’s playwright James Meteyard is also part of the band and playing Jessie’s eventual love interest Jim.
There is so much in store in this show that is hard to sum up in other words than to say: just like the eight-times fan from the start, you’ll most likely be wanting to come back too. At the risk of giving spoilers away, it cannot be omitted that Electrolyte is ultimately a piece about our fundamental significance to each other – as loyal friends, unexpected lovers, as strangers who make up a community – in ensuring mental wellbeing and survival. That is where its secret power lies, and as such, there are few better ways of ensuring togetherness than in an immersive form of a gig theatre piece.
Electrolyte is on at 5.20pm at Pleasance until 26th August, as part of the 2019 Edinburgh fringe. More tickets and info here.