Chicken Pox Fox Productions
Live Theatre, Newcastle
Kids are cruel. Fact. They spot the smallest differences and torture the different, all for a laugh.
14 year old Donna, bespectacled and fat with a beaming moon face, walks on stage carrying a fox puppet. She puts the fox on her shoulder, facing backwards, and turns upstage to do her ventriloquism "act", so the fox can tell us about her, and stuck on her back is a piece of paper which says "Donna eats shit".
Donna is bullied. She's different so everyone picks on her. No one wants to be friends with her, no one wants to work with her at school and she spends much of her time in her room.
Using an array of props—the fox, a couple of toy mice, a standard lamp shade, two hand puppets, a soft toy puppet—she tells us about her life, about her gran, her mam who's hardly ever there because she's busy with her "fancy man", the butcher downstairs and his girlfriend; about school and the project she has to do and how no one wants to work with her. The teacher tried to force the issue, making another girl work with her, but that girl's father complained and so Donna was on her own again.
The subject of the project will be the butcher and his girlfriend—but it wasn't his girlfriend at all: it was him. And now we hear of the progress of that project and what it led to.
Writer Mattinson has created a beautifully judged, funny, tragic and ultimately heart-warming monologue which Paula Penman plays with utter conviction, capturing the character and her innocence perfectly and carrying the audience along with humour and pathos. Director Laura Lindow's sharp eye for detail ensures that there is never a false note.
This run of Donna Disco sold out—and so it should.
Reviewer: Peter Lathan