Being honest, when I heard I was going to the Waterloo East Theatre to see a play called From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads I sort of assumed it was going to be a production about holiday makers. As one of my friends reminded me, in quite a shocked voice, the title is actually a line from David Bowie’s song ‘Life on Mars’ and the play I was going to see would likely have something to do with the late master of reinvention.
This haunting and beautifully delivered one-man show concern the life of Martin (Alex Walton) a teenage boy living in Norwich. Martin is a troubled soul – some might call him special – who lives with his mother, his father having left when he was two, and seems to have only three things in his life. The first is his interaction with his counsellor Glenda (the voice of Margaret Campbell), the second is his wish to see his father again and the third – and most important – is his love of the works of David Bowie. Martin knows everything there is to know about Bowie – including how to pronounce his name correctly – and lives for the magical days when he can buy a new record – never a CD – of David’s work. On his 18th birthday, Martin’s mother gives him an envelope she has held for him since he was a baby. Inside the envelope is a map and a letter which lead him on to a life changing epic journey of discovery with his father and David Bowie.
In From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads, Writer/Director Adrian Berry has put together an amazing story of one boy’s journey from everything he knows out into the wide world in search of his dream. And in Alex Walton, that story comes to life beautifully. Alex is an exemplary storyteller who captivates his audience with his style and skill. As well as narrating the tale, Alex also ‘becomes’ Martin and some of the characters he meets on his journey, including a rough bartender in a down at heel pub in deepest Croydon and a relaxed, friendly , elderly record shop owner in Norwich. Alex swaps between each character effortlessly and everyone is real.
The story is nicely written and particular scenes really stand out – again coming back to the bar in Croydon which over the course of the scene had me chuckling, laughing out loud and virtually crying as Martin – the ultimate fish out of water – orders a drink and emulates his hero on the karaoke machine. I also really enjoyed Martin’s interactions with Glenda, and his comments about the residential trip he had recently had were hilarious and actually really insightful.
Andie Scott’s set is sparse, leaving plenty of room for imagination as the stage becomes everything from Martin’s bedroom to a seedy Soho telephone box and many things in between as Martin goes on his travels. The only slight negative is that occasionally images are projected to the back of the stage which, due to the nature of the material used, are not always that clear. As well as the set, there is also music, much of it being by Mr Bowie himself which is used sparingly but well, although, on occasions, the sounds were a little distracting. The voice of David Bowie, was superbly portrayed by Rob Newman.
To sum up, I really enjoyed From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads which, without giving too much away, took me in a direction I was not expecting to go and walked with me, arm in arm to an ending that, for me was beautiful in its lack of final resolution leaving me to take Martin’s fascinating story forward in my own mind.
Review by Terry Eastham
Adrian Berry’s acclaimed sell-out production returns to London in this tale of a young David Bowie obsessive.
Martin is a boy with problems – an illness no-one understands and a head full of sound and vision. So when an unexpected gift arrives on his birthday, Martin embarks on a thrilling journey in the footsteps of his obsession, leading him to discover some long-hidden truths about himself. What follows will change his life forever…
Powerful and touching, music and magic realism collide in this darkly funny and moving production featuring Alex Walton and the voice of comedian Rob Newman. With a blistering Bowie soundtrack, the life of the pop fan is dissected in this tale of unnatural teenage wildlife.
18 Oct – 6 November 2016
From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads
Written and Directed by Adrian Berry