Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Review: 'Pebbles' at The Katzpace, 24th October 2017

Pebbles reviewed by David James

Rating: 4 Stars

Elton John's 1972 hit Rocket Man delivers a great parenting tip: "… Mars ain't the kind of place to raise your kids / In fact it's cold as hell / And there's no one there to raise them if you did". All current scientific data concurs: you absolutely wouldn't want to raise children on Mars, or for that matter, any other distant, spinning, barren ball of rock and sand.

Lidless Theatre's Pebbles grabs this baton and runs with it, using outer space as a metaphor for isolation, loneliness and self-loathing. Our hero is Jonie (Babe Sanders, also writing), who suffers from a mysterious illness that has resulted in her being exiled on a distant planet. We meet her on day 181, busily searching for a communications satellite that will let her order supplies and speak with her family. Things are looking pretty dire: she's having to restrict herself to one square of bog roll per bathroom visit.

The entire point of her being here is that she's isolated. This makes the sudden appearance of Bryon (Charlotte Beaumont) somewhat surprising. While Jonie is methodical and efficient, Bryon is chaotic and constantly verbally and physically dicking around. She very quickly gets on Jonie's nerves. But then, she could help her in her search...

What follows is an extremely funny, touching and concise piece of theatre. Sanders' script is polished to a mirror sheen, bundling up a load of complex emotions, a successful metaphor and a decent dollop of (clearly well-researched) science fiction. Jonie is a relatable, three-dimensional character and charismatic, albeit in a somewhat detached manner. In what might be the most impressive move, Bryon manages to be exceeding annoying to Jonie without actually being annoying to the audience. A lot of that is due to Beaumont's excellent performance, but the finely judged writing doesn't exactly hurt.

The solitary fly in this ointment is the opening scene delivered in pitch black via voiceover. It sort of establishes Jonie's disease, but not really, and in fact feels like a completely separate piece of writing appended onto the front of Pebbles. It also feels incredibly reminiscent of sketches in Chris Morris' Blue Jam. That's one of my favourite things ever, so I'm not exactly moaning, but any information it contains can be inferred from what follows and it probably doesn't need to be there.

Buoying up all this is note-perfect stage design from Kitty Hinchcliffe. Effectively minimalist, the set consists of a sea of white pebbles, with two large rocks in the middle. It's simple but perfectly executed, feeling like one of those designs that's going to stick in the mind for while. Costumes are similarly great: uncluttered white space suits that suggest functionality rather than get bogged down in detailing.

Pebbles is the inaugural show for the Katzpace, which is nestled underneath one of my favourite London bars, Katzenjammers. It's a great show to launch this new space and I wholeheartedly recommend checking it out. I hope to return to the Katzpace soon. I'm also signed the fuck up for whatever Bebe Sanders does next.

Pebbles is at the Katzpace Sunday 22 October – Wednesday 25 October 7.30pm plus 2.30pm (Wednesday). Tickets here.

Photographs by Gregory Hicks.

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