Touring – reviewed at HOME, Manchester
Manchester-based Box of Tricks Theatre Company has spent two years developing this piece of new writing with dual heritage writer/performer David Judge.
SparkPlug is an honest and gritty autobiographical work which looks to explore the early years of performer David Judge’s life in terms of identity, culture, family and home. Inspired by events in Judge’s life, the performance takes inspiration from his dad’s story – a white man who finds who becomes a father to a mixed-race child.
Running at around 80 minutes, SparkPlug is a monologue made up of a series of short vignettes. Richly layered, eloquent and raw, Judge weaves together defining narrative fragments of his father’s life. The story starts in 1983 and runs up into the 1990s – the clever movement through time is signalled by a changing soundtrack and the manual modification, headlights and number plate changes, of the car frame structure which dominates the centre of the stage.
Judge is a powerful presence on stage – playing a host of characters – he fuses the inflection of spoken word artistry with accent play and mimicry. Exploring a range of characters on stage as a single performer is a tricky task but Judge manages to convey a multitude of emotions. Under Hannah Tyrrell-Pinder’s direction, Judge moves in and around the car structure which gives the piece some pace and some visual variation.
SparkPlug is a really interesting play in which Judge successfully fuses an evocative personal narrative with his home city of Manchester. Some sections of the piece feel a little lengthy and would benefit from some trimming, particularly the stylised section which marks Dave’s breakdown. There are also some issues with pace and contrast between characters and individual stories. There is certainly room for some editing and a firmer directorial hand – both would make the audience’s journey even better when the piece embarks on its national tour.
SparkPlug runs at HOME Manchester until Saturday 23rd February 2019.
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