Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Lost / Found

Written and performed by Shot in the Dark
Re:Play Festival
Library Theatre, Manchester
(2009)

Publicity photo

Lost / Found is a group-written piece, written, designed, performed and directed by Tom Barry, Lowri Evans, Fiona Maddocks, Ben Moores, Niven Ganner, and Matt Rothwell, that was originally seen at the Contact Theatre last year.

Out of a stage full of rubbish, a space is cleared and some puppets made from newspaper emerge and begin to act together. A book is brought out and we begin the story of one of the puppets, Bobby's Story, which we keep returning to throughout the show. This is a rather thin, simplistic and depressing journey from domestic abuse and bullying as a child to prison and contemplation of suicide as an adult. Another recurring tale is the interesting but underdeveloped tale of Sebastian, who finds some old photographs in a skip and analyses the places and people in them to try to trace their owners. Between these stories are scenes, stories, poems and rap numbers that look at various aspects of modern life, but there is a running theme of domestic violence and despair running through a lot of the material.

There are some good ideas in both the material and the staging but few are developed as far as they could be to actually say something new, interesting, exciting or that would really make audiences think or feel something. The puppets work well at the start and there is a very effective and clever idea of using bubble wrap to create a large talking face, but then all of this potential is underused for the rest of the show. There are some interesting and even occasionally amusing verses that are well-performed, and then again there is some sloppy rhyming and some juvenile humour that turns characters into comic clichés and destroys any chance of audience empathy. Many of the show's takes on modern life are rather superficial and naïve.

There are also some technical problems, such as main elements of a scene played in shadow, people wearing masks rarely facing the front to let the audience see them and background music that seems to be coming from backstage rather than through the theatre's PA, which makes it always sound muffled and distant.

At the end, the back curtain is pulled aside to reveal a rock band, which performs the overlong closing track to the show as the others lie on the stage or sweep up the debris. The band's front man careers about the stage like a clichéd rock singer as his muffled vocals, almost completely drowned out by the musicians, appear to be coming from the bar next door.

There are some decent performances and some nice ideas and occasionally they come off reasonably well, but this is really a jumble of unrelated, underdeveloped material mixed with student drama exercises that doesn't hold together as a single coherent show. While the group may think that a stage filled with litter with a few interesting items amongst it is a metaphor for life, it is more a metaphor for the script.

Reviewer: David Chadderton