THEATRE ROYAL PLYMOUTH – THE LAB – 14 DECEMBER 2019
RUNNING TIME 1 HOURS 10 MINUTES – No interval
Theatre Royal Plymouth Box Office – 01752 267222
REVIEW – CORMAC RICHARDS – 13 DECEMBER 2019
The set for GRAPHO comprises a flooring made of asymmetrical shapes of different colours to replicate Post-It Notes; two, large ‘balls of crumpled paper’ cushion-type seats; an illuminated perspex board for writing on and a backdrop of denim-type material covered in signatures written in wax.
The description of the set is important in this play from new company DIP THE NIB – their mission to make theatre as accessible to as many people as possible. The proceedings start with the audience being invited to walk the set in the tiny LAB studio – to feel the signatures on the backdrop, written in wax so you can follow them with your fingers and to sit on the cushions – only to find they are not what they seem.
What follows is 70 minutes of storytelling where the visual and the aural are heighted to offer up the accessibility the Company wishes to explore and as the two performers explain what they are wearing and what they look like, the show begins.
Daisy Higman’s story is one of drama, laughter, awkwardness and surprises. The actress narrates the tale of her childhood into adulthood in the most open of fashion. It is impossible not to be engaged by her enthusiasm and warm personality as well as the details of what she has to say. With a mysteriously unknown Father and a Mother who takes spirituality to new heights, this is not a conventional upbringing. Throw in some dodgy fanfiction, geeky boys and loss of virginity and you have a rite of passage which may be recognisable to many but this one comes with added drama.
Throughout Emma Latham appears as a form of commentator and instigator of some of the action, not least as a variety of experts in graphology – hence the title of the play – the significance of which forms an important part of the story.
Daisy uses the illuminated board to write on, using pens which glow brightly when she does so – a device to assist those with impaired vision, but also a wonderfully realised adjunct to the narrative. Throughout, the audience is involved and encouraged to participate – I could definitely see some people mouthing the words to ‘Wuthering Heights’ as Daisy performed her Kate Bush – some excellent choices of music throughout, by the way.
The story-telling is lively and fun, and just when it appears to be running out of steam it delivers a punch in the gut which justifies all that has gone before.
Amidst the lightness is power and pain and issues which will never disappear, It leaves you deeply thoughtful.
This most unusual piece of theatre wins on a number of levels. The involvement of the audience from start to finish almost offers them some ownership of the proceedings and the use of music, movement and visuals are not overt references to disability, they enhance and complement.
DIP THE NIP are exploring interesting and innovative theatre – GRAPHO is an excellent starting point which deserves attention.
DAISY HIGMAN – WRITER/PERFORMER
EMMA LATHAM – DIRECTOR/PERFORMER
CHLOE BENBOW – SET DESIGNER
NATASHA WHITLEY – TECHNICIAN
SARAH FARROW-JONES & ANGUS CUMMINGS – SET MAKERS
CHLOË CLARKE – AUDIO DESCRIPTION CONSULTANT
CHELSEA VINCENT – MARKETING