Finders Keepers does get very physical at times. But then it has to, as Mr Pharaoh (Clare-Louise English) and his unnamed daughter (Jo Sargeant) are left with a baby, seemingly abandoned by its mother in a cradle. Quite why this happened is never explored in a narrative that instead focuses on bowel movements and other daily routines. The exaggerated mannerisms are a cause for much amusement, and the whole process of getting up in the morning, washing and dressing, and so forth, cannot be misunderstood. But there were moments when some members of the audience looked nonplussed. I didn’t care much for the music used during the show, with one track, in particular becoming so irritating I would have preferred silence.
Elsewhere, however, were points that left some audibly gasping. I’ve seen the eating of insects in a theatre before, and though it isn’t a salient point of this production, there’s something to be said about such sources of food as one of several viable solutions to tackling a growing global food crisis, in which (to paraphrase) the rules of supply and demand dictate that food gradually becomes more expensive, hitting the world’s poorest hardest.
Anyway, the show comes across as something that has been stretched out to an hour-long performance and could have shaved at least a few minutes off the running time, with no consequence to the storyline, fuzzy as it is. Look at Caryl Churchill’s plays, for instance: one of them, Pigs and Dogs, performed at the Royal Court in the summer of 2016, had a running time of 15 minutes. Here, the audience watches water being boiled, for instance, and nail filing was being done on stage to pass the time. I was making a supermarket shopping list in my head whilst wondering why on earth a show would wish to deliberately bore people.
The lighting effects were excellent – they were simple but worked well. But the show really needed more context: the biological mother returns, takes the baby and walks away, without so much as a parting gift, leaving even the show’s title in jeopardy. There’s a back story, but I haven’t a clue what it was, and it was slightly frustrating to leave the theatre with so many questions about the whys and wherefores of the plot. The story is based on the circumstances surrounding the birth of Moses, but being so different from the account in the King James Bible (Exodus, chapter 2) it was difficult to draw any parallels between the stories.
The initial comical appeal started to wane in the last quarter of the show, in which almost the entire morning routine with which the show started with was repeated with little (if any) variation. A late poignant moment was arguably too extended for the youngest members of the audience. There are, to be fair, some genuinely heart-warming moments and the two main characters learn much about themselves, each other and life in general. Given the family-friendly nature of this production, there could have been more direct engagement with the audience, rather than merely periodically hurling food around the theatre space. A good effort, though, and the production should be congratulated for attracting such a cosmopolitan audience.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Two twits, one junkyard and an unexpected surprise! Hot Coals Theatre return to Park Theatre with Finders Keepers: a fun-filled, highly visual cartoon for the stage. Inspired by the story of Moses, Finders Keepers is an adult comedy suitable for children, and is fully inclusive for both D/deaf and hearing audiences. Using music, puppetry and physical comedy with no dialogue, Finders Keepers invents a playful world without words. The official press night will be Friday 7 April, 7pm.
Step into the strange and murky junkyard world of Mr. Pharaoh and his daughter. Living in a scrapyard on the fringes of society, these two loveable and quirky vagrants’ lives are turned upside down when the discovery of a tiny, abandoned baby catches them by surprise. As these two colourful characters begin to grapple with their new routines and responsibilities, they begin to find love in the most unexpected of places.
Park Theatre, Clifton Terrace, Finsbury Park, N4 3JP
Dates: 4 April – 29 April 2017