The deceptively slow opening of Muckers had me thinking I was in for the longest 90 minutes of my life. The two protagonists, Paloma and Pichon, mucked around with a huge pile of clothes, performing sketches from Home and Away, dressing up as kings, queens and flamenco dancers with a side helping of toilet humour and descriptions of vaginas (which it has to be said went down a storm with the target audience of kids over seven).
However, after the first 15 minutes the story plunged into a surreal journey through a fairyland-esque junkyard, and an exploration of the inner self. When the lights came on I felt like I had just woken up from a weird and wonderful dream.
Muckers is award-winning avant garde theatremaker Caroline Horton’s first family show. It’s aimed at everyone aged seven to 97, and it really is a must see for all ages. Paloma, played by Horton, and Pichon, played by Elena Olivieri, are two partners in crime who are targeted by a blinding light called Big Luz. Pichon disappears and Paloma is thrown into a magical world on a journey to find her again. Horton and Olivieri have incredible chemistry onstage and Rodriguez’s acting, especially the comic roles, is brilliant. She moves seamlessly from Pichon to Mr Pichon to several other blink-and-you’ll-miss-them characters that make up Horton’s world.
This production emphasises what an impact lighting and set can have on a performance. The design by Verity Quin uses fairylights, gauze and a wide assortment of costumes to target the most powerful tool in the room- the audience’s imagination. This has always been what children’s theatre is best at and Muckers doesn’t disappoint. The stage is transformed from a mundane set covered in a pile of dressing up clothes to a dark wonderland full of vibrant characters, most played by Olivieri, including a talking toilet. Paloma’s mission to find her friend is interrupted by the bright light of Big Luz at chilling intervals. They also break into original songs composed by Horton and John Biddle, and performed in Horton’s impressive singing voice.
The use of Spanish in the production is another defining feature, and was a talking point in itself for a play aimed at the under 10s. The lack of translation is a perfect metaphor for the play which often seems as incomprehensible as a foreign language, but beautiful all the same.
Muckers was on at Z-Arts in Manchester on 13 April. It tours the UK until 24 October. More info here.