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Lost In Blue at the Lion & Unicorn Theatre

Debs Newbold has the kind of recording and playback equipment increasingly commonplace in single-performer productions. The human voice is used to speak or otherwise make sound effects, into a microphone, a few buttons are pressed, and those same words and/or sounds are replicated instantly. It’s a device that is arguably a little overused here, but the results are nonetheless effective in creating, for instance, a water leak, or the voice of Paul, the central character Annie’s father.

Lost In BlueAnnie spent the first three years of her life in Birmingham, before moving with her mother Sarah to Australia thereafter: Sarah had not, for reasons explained in the narrative, even entertained the very thought of popping back over to Blighty for a holiday. But her line of work has dried up – she has become, as Annie puts it, a “failed singer”, and eventually comes back to the UK, though it isn’t clear whether she wishes to pursue a career in the entertainment industry over here. As for Annie, she’s applied to study at the Slade School of Fine Art, based at University College London, and her keen interest in becoming a painter (of artistic works, as opposed to a decorator) follows on from her father’s line of work in the same field.

Then there’s Candy, Paul’s sister, who has become his carer following a road traffic accident. None of the three women like each other – I lost track of who was calling whom a ‘bitch’, and I can only conclude that they were all considered to be one by either or both of the others. At least the show can hardly be accused of lacking dramatic tension. Paul’s comatose state and deteriorating condition leads Dr Angela Campbell, a consultant, and her colleagues, to conclude that palliative care would be best, though there is, perhaps naturally, resistance from Candy. Annie concludes, somewhat bizarrely, that ‘they’ want to ‘kill’ her father.

Odder than that, though, is a subplot involving Paul and – wait for it – Vincent van Gogh, which I wouldn’t expect to have happened until after Paul died, whenever that would be. My own narrow-mindedness aside, this steadily-paced play is very detailed and very wordy, and while the set isn’t quite ‘poor theatre’, the descriptions of events and settings are so exhaustive almost nothing is left to be imagined. Direct addresses to the audience, as ever, help with maintaining interest in what becomes a wide-ranging story, as much about pigeons as it is about parents as it is about painting.

The show is not, however, guilty of oversharing – the characters are developed well, and one comes away with a comprehensive understanding of the family dynamics involved. Newbold begins by breaching the fourth wall, and does it so pleasantly that the rapport with the audience is maintained throughout. There are various characters and various accents (well, okay, two in particular) all voiced seemingly effortlessly. Canvass painting may feature strongly in this tale, but it is the refined art of storytelling that shines in this engaging and observant production.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Funny, moving, uplifting and at times downright bizarre, Lost In Blue is a tour de force of contemporary storytelling fuelled by playful sound technology.

On her 18th birthday, Annie becomes convinced that she’s responsible for the accident that has left her father Paul in a coma for the last 15 years. Her mother Sarah is struggling to keep things together, her aunt Candy eats optimism for breakfast and her new friend Leonard talks mainly to pigeons.

Meanwhile, Paul is hiding out in the bedroom of Vincent Van Gogh nursing his terrible secret while the clock ticks and his family begin to question how long the machines should keep him holding on.

Lost in Blue
The Lion & Unicorn Theatre
Funny, moving, uplifting and at times downright bizarre, Lost In Blue is a tour de force of contemporary storytelling fuelled by playful sound technology.

On her 18th birthday Annie becomes convinced that she’s responsible for the accident that has left her father Paul in a coma for the last 15 years. Her mother Sarah is struggling to keep things together, her aunt Candy eats optimism for breakfast and her new friend Leonard talks mainly to pigeons.

Meanwhile, Paul is hiding out in the bedroom of Vincent Van Gogh nursing his terrible secret while the clock ticks and his family begin to question how long the machines should keep him holding on.

Hilarious and raw by turns, Lost In Blue is “a beautiful and intricate story” (★★★★ Three Weeks) with a live looped score, written and performed by multi-award-winning theatre-maker Debs Newbold. “Julie Walters meets Daniel Kitson” (Ruth E. Cockburn).

SHOW INFORMATION:
WRITTEN & PERFORMED BY: Debs Newbold
DIRECTED BY: John Wright
ADDITIONAL CREATIVES: Kieran Lucas (Sound Design)
https://www.thelionandunicorntheatre.com/

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