Touring – reviewed at Z-Arts, Manchester
Simon Mole is an acclaimed spoken word poet and theatre-maker who built his skills on the Brighton hip-hop scene. Since becoming a father, he has tapped into younger audiences – his show – Friends for All – is aimed at ages five and up and is about having the confidence to be yourself and stand up for what you believe in.
Originally commissioned for the V&A as part of their You Say You Want a Revolution? exhibition, Friends for All tells the story of Lexi who is eight years old and finds it hard to make new friends at school. Inspired by her grandad’s hippy stories of revolution from the 60s, we follow Lexi as she decides to fight the powers that be – her class teacher Mr Marsh and the class bully Suzy.
Mole engages with the audience from the outset and manages to keep the young audience enthralled for the whole 45-minute duration of the show. Talking to the young theatregoers as they enter the auditorium – he immediately taps into their imaginations – and when he steps on stage, they hang onto every word. Throughout the show, Mole encourages interaction – using the audience to generate the soundscape of a school playground or participate in a simple revolutionary dance move – and the little ones in the audience really get stuck in.
Friends for All uses simple but effective video projections designed by Andrew Crofts to further illustrate the story for the young spectators. Images of Lexi, her grandad and her class at school are projected onto white blocks which are moved easily around the performance space. Pleasingly, these video projections are not too prescriptive and allow the young audience to use their imaginations and curiosity to understand the powerful yet simple narrative.
Friends for All encourages our children to hear and see for themselves, to ask questions and then seek to find their own conclusions. Performance and art is perhaps the most powerful medium that we have in encouraging change and revolution and this charming production pitches this idea perfectly to young minds.