Mental Health Foundation

Electrolyte

14/05/19

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

Electrolyte is not so much a musical as an extended piece of performance poetry set to music – what has recently come to be termed ‘gig theatre.’ I’ve only occasionally seen examples of it and, to be honest, I’ve rarely seen it done as convincingly as it is here by Wildcard Theatre’s six-strong cast of actor/musicians. It’s enervating stuff, full of fire and emotion, a blitzkrieg of sound and light that barely pauses to take a breath, yet never allows all that energy to get in the way of telling a powerful and important story.

It’s the story of Jess (Olivia Sweeney), a young, would-be artist living a hedonistic lifestyle with her friends in Leeds, and trying as best she can to shrug off a recent family tragedy. At one particular party, she hooks up with Allie Touch (Robyn Sinclair), a charismatic singer/songwriter whose star is clearly on the rise. She invites Jess to be her guest at a showcase she’s doing in London and Jess gleefully goes along for the ride, partly because she’s a little bit obsessed with Allie, but mostly because she’s anxious to reconnect with someone who lives there, someone she hasn’t seen in a while…

It would be wrong of me to give any more of the plot away; suffice to say that Jess is not the most reliable of narrators, but – as personified by the hyperactive Sweeney – we’re with her every step of the way, willing her to succeed as she careers headlong towards her goal.

But this is more than just a showcase for the lead performer – all the actor musicians in the ensemble have plenty of opportunities to shine and the whole piece is expertly knitted together, encompassing a whole range of musical genres and moods. The script, by James Meteyard, is terrific: witty, playful and occasionally devastating, taking in genuine emotional moments, whilst never allowing itself to wallow in sentimentality.

At this point, I’d usually be urging the citizens of Edinburgh to run out and grab tickets but, sadly, this was a ‘one night only’ appearance at the Traverse. However, Electrolyte is still in the early stages of a ten-week tour of the UK and, chances are, somewhere between now and early July, it could well be coming to a venue near you. If it does, and you miss your chance to book for it, you’ll only have yourselves to blame.

5 stars

Philip Caveney

 

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