Touring – reviewed at the Sherman Theatre, Cardiff
Electrolyte, produced by Wildcard Theatre, is currently doing a UK tour and I cannot applaud this production or recommend that everyone go and see it more if I tried.
It’s a piece of gig-theatre, and combined with spoken word poetry, an intriguing plot, excellent writing and incredible
actors, it makes for potentially the best piece of theatre I have ever seen. Okay, I am a sucker for spoken word poetry, so I might be a little biased in this respect, but in spite of this, it is brilliant in every wary.
As we entered “The Studio” of the Sherman Theatre in Cardiff, the band was still warming up and doing sound checks which already made the atmosphere very casual and broke down walls between the performers and the audience – something that was repeatedly done.
The narrative is of young adult Jessie from Leeds, whose friends are all doing things she is not; moving away, getting engaged, and Jessie’s overwhelming feelings of grief for her recently deceased father and other mental health issues force her to make drastic changes as she goes in search for something she has not had before.
I won’t say too much more about the plot, as I would hate to ruin anything, but that is essentially what the story is about. However, Wildcard Theatre cleverly makes this show so much more than that.
Through a combination of Olivia Sweeney’s high energy as Jessie, the spoken word script by James Meteyard, and the music composed by Maimuna Memon, I was sucked into the performance from the very first second, and this energy didn’t drop for a second throughout the 70-minute performance. I genuinely let out a breath of air at the end of the
production as I felt I had been holding my breath the entire time, on the edge of my seat in constant anticipation on where the story would take us next.
The structure of the piece is unique, as there is a very minimal set and all the characters are always on stage, either acting, playing instruments or watching Jessie’s journey unfold. Electrolyte is a combination of an internal monologue from Jessie and real-time dialogue between her and her peers. There is no need for set, as the beautiful prose spoken so
perfectly makes a set come alive in your mind unlike anything I have ever experienced before. I can still see those sets in my head that Sweeney describes to the audience – I almost feel I could tell you what the weather was like or what smells were in each setting, the descriptions were so realistic.
Olivia Sweeney in Electrolyte by Wildcard Theatre
Through the combination of this incredible spoken word and
an ever-changing, yet ever-constant, score, I found myself getting emotional at
parts of the story that weren’t even so – purely because the mix of the
artforms came together so perfectly to create something so wonderful. I truly
felt myself leaning forwards and nearing to the edge of my seat as I was
hanging on Sweeney’s every word, every breath and every slight physical
movement or facial expression so as to not miss a thing. As well as this, as
the story continues and the audience experiences true emotion at what unfolds
in Jessie’s journey, I was quite literally crying my eyes out. The only other
piece of theatre that has moved me like this was Come From Away at the
Phoenix Theatre in London, meaning that Electrolyte truly is of
Without going into too much detail about the specifics of
the plot, Electrolyte deals with a number of mental health issues that –
as someone who has faced mental health – are presented with integrity and
honesty. This realistic portrayal of something so many of us go through choked
me up, not only to see myself in Jessie and her peers, but also because I felt
grateful that Wildcard Theatre represented me (and so many others) in a
way that was so accurate – a
representation that is so important, yet so scarce.
James Meteyard in Electrolyte by Wildcard Theatre
The aforementioned Olivia Sweeney in the main role of
Jessie delivers a mind-blowing performance, not only from her ability to
deliver the speech so well, but her changing of tempo, emotion and energy. She
barely stops all performance, and at times is quite literally bouncing around
the stage. I’m not sure how she does it, but she smashes it out the park. Watch
out for this rising star.
Jessie’s best friend, Donna, is played by Megan Ashley
(also on the saxophone) who gives a strong and emotional performance as both
Jessie’s hardest stab of reality, as well as her rock. Ben Simon and Chris
Georgiou as Paul and Ralph, on keyboard and drums respectively contribute
to a wonderful show, and James Meteyard on the decks also warms my heart
as character Jim. Robyn Sinclair gives an outstanding performance of
Allie Touch, with both her singing and her acting blowing me away – is there a
version of the songs anywhere online?!
This incredible show wouldn’t work without all of the cast giving
100%, and they certainly deliver.
Following the show was a quick debrief and Q&A session
with the cast which I really enjoyed. The show packs a punch with its themes
towards the end, and I thought it was really important to have this debrief and
space to breathe. The team explain that the show has been made in partnership
with charity The Mental Health Foundation, and I truly believe that Electrolyte
is doing positive things to bring mental health to the surface in a safe space
where people can see themselves reflected in art, as well as start important
Don’t miss out on an enlightening, moving and incredible show, book your tickets for Electrolyte now as it travels around the UK, ending its tour on 18 July in London, before heading to the Fringe for a run from 31 July – 26 August.
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