Reviews Exeter Published 31 January 2017

Review: From Devon With Love at the Bike Shed Theatre

Bike Shed Theatre ⋄ 17 - 27 January 2017

Growing up sucks. So don’t bother: Chris White reviews the annual From Devon With Love festival in Exeter.

Chris White
Twenty Something by Freya Bardell, performed as part of From Devon With Love 2017.

Twenty Something by Freya Bardell, performed as part of From Devon With Love 2017.

From Devon with Love, the Bike Shed’s annual festival which supports and celebrates emerging companies and artists, has just come to close. It was easy to detect a thread running through this year’s programme – an inadvertent theme which bound together an eclectic bunch of performances.

A&E’s Zips explores the agitation and turmoil of growing up in Teignmouth. In some ways it’s a very pious version of Skins, but for all its fairy-lights and faults it explores some genuine ideas about sexuality, identity and youth. A sharp and poetical script by Simon Marshall about standing on the brink of adulthood and looking into the vast and terrifying expanse…

Not to worry though; James Luckraft-Law brought the perfect solution with The Grownup’s Guide to Growing Up. Combining comedy, cake and genuine gut-wrenching neurosis, the show is a mostly light-hearted look at what it really means to be a grownup. Basically fuck all, right?

Alex Jackson’s Out of the Ashes is a slightly more sobering look at growing-up. Based on the novel by Michael Morpurgo, the play follows the story of Becky Morley, a 13-year-old who lives on a farm in Devon and witnesses the effects of the 2001 foot-and-mouth outbreak – an experience that forces her over the brink, and into the harsh adult world.

Charming and inventive, the piece uses simple staging and storytelling to shed light on a monumental crisis in recent history. The performances by Chelsea Marie and Amelia Hibbert were also superb.

I Wanna Dance With Somebody is also weirdly about growing up (sort of.) In this one-man show by Running Dog Theatre, Josh Lucas takes us on a journey from an ordinary, slightly awkward school disco into the infinite possibilities of a rapidly expanding universe. It’s an extremely intelligent and heartfelt piece about anxiety, identity and how to just exist. But it’s also an experiential piece in which words succumb to dancing. Because that’s all you can do – dance and be together.

Freya Bardell is in the moment. At the start of Twenty Something she comes out dancing to the Pussycat Dolls (When I Grow Up, of course.) Freya is twenty-something. She’s basically a grownup, but things aren’t exactly going to plan.

This was my favourite show of the festival; a brutally honest take on the agony of an everyday millennial, which combines dance, poetry and even flute-playing. Jobs, relationships, sex, ambitions and dreams are all crushed as Freya vomits up her soul. It’s difficult to watch, but God it’s funny.

Finally, the hilarious play by the Bike Shed’s graduate company Kill the Cat, The Beginner’s Guide to Navigation, is a madcap and very witty romp about a young woman who wants to ban maps. She forms a protest group (Maps Anger People – or M.A.P) and sets about on a series of increasingly mad stunts. Oh, and the whole thing is basically narrated by a map.

It’s great. And, of course, what it’s really about is growing up (maybe I’m just clutching at straws now.)

But it’s about taking a stance, being together, being in the moment… all of those things.

It’s about not letting yourself grow into some middle-aged, apathetic, boring, old twat.

It’s about being free to be expressive, to dance, sing, protest, and play the flute –

And if I’ve learnt anything from this year’s festival it’s basically that growing up sucks. So don’t bother.

From Devon With Love was on at the Bike Shed Theatre in Exeter. Click here for more details on all of the performances mentioned in the review.

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Chris White is a contributor to Exeunt Magazine

Review: From Devon With Love at the Bike Shed Theatre Show Info


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