Barge Baby

Mon 4th – Mon 25th August 2014

reviews

Rachel Mfon

at 03:25 on 15th Aug 2014

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Bricks and Mortar Theatre gave birth to the large, loud and strange looking Barge Baby. The cast are brought together on a claustrophobic stage with dull, makeshift props to illustrate the feigned love of Glen and Mary and the entrapment of the entire Callow family.

The soon to be dissatisfied mother and soon to be Grandmother, Mary, is increasingly overwhelmed by her forthcoming title, as well as the overbearing presence of her husband, pregnant daughter, son-in-law, daughter and eccentric neighbour. All of which, pushes Mary to boiling point. The feeling of exasperation is definitely mutual. Georgia Bliss conceives a bundle of stereotypes, culminating to dull and predictable characters. Particularly, Glen, who plays the beer bellied father with a contrived deep voice which sounds about as believable as your uncle when pretending to be Santa Clause. How can I forget the free-spirited, reckless, raving, drug craving daughter Ruby? A character that can best be described as an amateur version of Vicky Pollard. A completely unoriginal character is almost impossible to perform in any way that is truthful but evidently, it is much easier to be seen as over-acted and forced.

The second half of the show begins to soothe the irritation caused by the first half. Guiltily, I find myself quietly thanking God for the inevitable breakdown of the family, which transforms the dry and overdone idealized family scenes to something slightly move involving. As the scenes move quickly from one to the next, Director William Cowell gives the audience no room to breathe. The dynamic scene changes and rapidness of the stories' decline into chaos is successful in making the audience experience the family's suffocation. Although, a poignant moment during the delivery of the baby is ruined by a quick and dismissive scene change.

As the tension rises, so does the quality of the performance. Raine Coles as Mary, not only delivers her daughter's baby, she delivers a dynamic monologue with prowess. Realizing her husband of 27 years is a complete moron and her daughter is essentially Vicky Pollard, Cole's character plummets into despair, while Cole's performance is elevated to a high standard.

Overall, Barge Baby appears to be slightly premature. A drama that is full of nonsensical characters and ducks- I never mentioned the ducks? (It's a long story and trust me, you don't want to know.) With some stand-out performances but more mediocre ones, I'd say Barge Baby is a show you can endure but probably not enjoy.

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Hannah Blythe

at 10:23 on 15th Aug 2014

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Barge Baby was a drama about the unconventional Callow family, who reunited for the birth of Glenn and Mary’s first grandchild. The story took place on a barge, moored in Birmingham in 1990. The couple had lived on the boat for twenty-seven years and now their eldest daughter, Lucy, had returned to give birth. The play combined an odd mixture of surrealism and kitchen-sink drama. While the premise was interesting, the script had a number of gaping holes.

This production’s strongest elements were in the performers’ surrealist capabilities. Generally speaking, the actors gave enticing caricatured performances. Tom Telford was particularly pleasing as the slightly hapless, idealistic father, Glenn. While, for most of the play, Telford’s role was largely comedic, the actor was able to switch on serious emotion as Glenn realised that his marriage with Mary was drawing to a close. The emotion with which Telford delivered the line, ‘I made the smile stop, didn’t I?’ was heart wrenching.

Barge Baby was interspersed with musical scene changes. The actors donned caps, assumed the role of mallards, and gave enticing performances of drug-inspired songs. The opening ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ set the scene for the quirky act that followed. These musical interludes ensured that the rather complicated scene-changes ran smoothly. The ducks also communicated the lack of privacy that comes with living on a barge. These invasive mallards clucked their way into the family drama.

However, there were a number of gaping holes in ‘Barge Baby.’ For a long time, it wasn’t clear that the play was set in 1990. While Ruby’s fashion, for example, was distinctive, she could very easily have been an alternative student of today. And while some social themes of the 1990s did gradually come through, they were never fully explored. Yes, Patrick was a yuppy, but the contrast between his economic ambition and Glenn’s idealism was only perfunctorily mentioned.

Furthermore, Lucy’s decision to allow her mother to deliver her baby was deeply unrealistic. I’m not sure that a midwife, on the way to deliver a child, would be happy to skip the birth on being informed that the grandparent, lacking in any serious medical training, would do the job for her.

Barge Baby had promise. It featured some interesting social ideas and stage techniques. However, the social themes were only partially explored, and Georgia Bliss’s script was frustratingly full of holes.

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