As a Face Front Trustee I remember hearing about the development of this production about domestic violence and thinking “Well that’s gonna be a bundle of laughs…”
The set up was accompanied by a very chatty Breakfast Club and a number of questions from pupils. The audience proper were very enthusiastic, ready to engage and had definitely brought their imaginations.
The actors and their characters were introduced by Director Ray and the audience were quickly following their every word and move and laughs were to the fore as brother and sister Aaron 12 and Yasmin 10 played Mum and lost at wii tennis, further hilarity as Aaron and cousin Michael fall out over nothing in particular. Yasmin’s secrecy over her diary has Aaron screaming “Yasmin’s gotta boyfriend!!”, but reality harbours a much deeper secret and Yasmin’s bandaged hand has to be explained away.
Uncle Ali is a support to his sister Mum Meena, he is funny and brings presents for Aaron and Yasmin and fixes a smashed family photograph, but when he realises something is wrong, his offer of help is denied. The story of Beauty and the Beast and dreams help to forward the narrative and keep the imagination levels high. The growing threat of serious damage is balanced with music and dance as Yasmin, Aaron and friend prepare for a school talent competition. When Yasmin spends more and more time in the library, often asleep and letter to her father is found, Mrs Kendall’s offer to help is refused by Yasmin. A torn and damaged book, a sign of how Yasmin ‘s exemplary behaviour has now been called into question.
The problems don’t go away, arguments between Mum and Dad get louder and more violent, the picture gets smashed again, Aaron has his Mum on speed dial because he needs to know she is alright. Yasmin becomes more and more fragile as Aaron’s story reading is the only keeping them safe and sane. Yet another crash, bang wallop episode has Mum screaming and finally Aaron dials…999.
That’s not quite the end of the story, Uncle Ali’s offer of help is finally accepted and Yasmin, Aaron and Mum move in with him and a year later we find out how the family are doing. Does Yasmin get her happy ever after? You’ll have to see the play, but I believe it’s sold out and the cast don’t have a day till the middle of December.
A bundle of laughs? Yes there is laughs a plenty and much more in this powerful, no-nonsense production, physical theatre, music and dance, imaginative use of space, props and sound. How even in an open Primary school hall, a door with many locks can signify so much, in the traverse staging.
All of this was followed by a very clear workshop to reinforce what had been learnt, with the pupils and the adult audience in the thick of it, especially as a human clapperboard, total engagement and a panto-style sing off leaves the young audience empowered and energised.
A special mention to Emma as Yasmin, to Gopal, Keimari and Leesa for doubling their parts as well as director / facilitator Ray, orchestrating the workshop with wit, warmth and regular positive reinforcement. A big thank to George Spicer School for their welcome and the Year 5 classes who made a very worthwhile experience and the two excellent volunteer actors. Thank you one and all.