‘The music tells the emotional tale as well as anyone could’: SONGLINES – HighTide Festival ★★★★

In Festivals, London theatre, Musicals, Opinion, Reviews by Libby PurvesLeave a Comment

HighTide Festival, Walthamstow – until 30 September 2018

With the feral teenage violence of Heathers all snarling and murdering in the West End, and the manic cheerleader energy of Bring It On just finished at Southwark, what more soothing than an hour in a gentler vision of teenage confusion and calf-love? Especially with an onstage duo of two of the author Tallulah Brown’s band, the Trills (formerly Vagabond Trills), punctuating and easing on the mood of the story.

Brown and Serafina D’Arby sing beautifully, and so at one point does Fanta Barrie, playing a stroppy displaced girl with a problem mother who finds herself expelled from her cool Camden-girl London school life. Her look, by the way, is perfect, shorts-over-fishnets-and-scowl, with occasional school shirt defiantly hanging out.

She is dumped with her stern grandmother on the Suffolk coast, which inspired Brown’s last play Sea Fret, and falls in with a geeky but far more grounded schoolfriend (Joe Hurst) who works on his family farm. She’s restlessly defiant, he unimpressed but benign. Her irritable failed seduction – “I thought you were up for it” is bravado, from a generation confused into thinking the only valid contact is sex. His “I am just here to cut the grass” is one of the lines of the year.

But the relationship grows better; he introduces her to the bleak quiet beach where he feels history under his feet, Viking ships never far off. She starts to see what he sees. Events flicker by (it’s a one-hour show) and the music tells the emotional tale as well as anyone could. Nice.

 

Libby Purves on Twitter
Libby Purves
Libby Purves was theatre critic for The Times from 2010 to 2013. Determined to continue her theatre commentary after losing that job, she set up her own site www.theatrecat.com in October 2013. She personally reviews all major London openings, usually with on-the-night publication, and also gives voice to a new generation of critics with occasional guest 'theatrekittens'. In addition to her theatre writing and myriad other credits, Libby has been a presenter on BBC Radio 4’s Midweek for over 30 years. She is also the author of a dozen novels, and numerous non-fiction titles. In 1999, Libby was appointed an OBE for services to journalism.
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Libby Purves on Twitter
Libby Purves
Libby Purves was theatre critic for The Times from 2010 to 2013. Determined to continue her theatre commentary after losing that job, she set up her own site www.theatrecat.com in October 2013. She personally reviews all major London openings, usually with on-the-night publication, and also gives voice to a new generation of critics with occasional guest 'theatrekittens'. In addition to her theatre writing and myriad other credits, Libby has been a presenter on BBC Radio 4’s Midweek for over 30 years. She is also the author of a dozen novels, and numerous non-fiction titles. In 1999, Libby was appointed an OBE for services to journalism.