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Review of Why is the Sky Blue? at Southwark Playhouse

Why Is The Sky Blue at Southwark Playhouse. Millie Thew. Photo by Marc Brenner
Why Is The Sky Blue at Southwark Playhouse. Millie Thew. Photo by Marc Brenner

In an insightful and educational production, Tackroom theatre presents to us Why is the Sky Blue?, a mixed media composition centred around the effects of pornography on children and young people. The piece is based on the results of discussions with roughly 10,000 young people around the UK and incorporates some direct quotes from those interviews.

Additional to the interview quotes and extracts, the cast have been chosen as a company of 6 to 22-year-olds that should be representative of the overall demographic while adding their own valuable input into the piece. While much of the show is scripted, the personal touches do shine through in the delivery of the parts they are given but come furthest to the fore in several one-to-one interview pieces that sporadically appear throughout the production.

For the most part, Why is the Sky Blue? was split into a number of repeating segments; audience interaction, cast/character monologue, two cast member interview-style dialogue, song/dance but even though the overall formats may have been similar, the content of each section was different and in many ways following a regimented delivery allowed for greater focus on the underlying message in each case.

Much of Why is the Sky Blue? was performed in Direct Address and had an ‘instructive talk’ or ‘life skills training’ kind of feel to it that was tempered by a healthy portion of humour and some excellent audience interaction. A very useful medium for moving the piece along, this also worked well as an icebreaker and tool for engagement in a topic that has the potential to be a bit awkward for many people.

However, the highlights for me were the musical sections. There were some impressive harmonies and ‘round robin’ sequences that grabbed my attention but overall the songs were catchy, well thought out, possibly a little shorter than a full-blown musical number but not suffering for it, and just funny enough to keep the mood light. There was at least one song I would have put on a playlist to listen to again and it would be worth going to see the piece for the music alone.

On the counterpoint, I thought that the interview-esque sections were arguably the weakest. Not to say that there weren’t good elements to them and while they were, I believe, improvised they did fit well enough into the overall structure that I found it very hard to tell if they were scripted or not. The issue that I had with those parts is, charming though they were, they caused something of a halt to the rest of the composition and while it’s obviously necessary in a production like this to have some of the cast not taking an active part in certain sections, where it was a one on one interaction, the other cast members remained onstage in the side-lines which detracted from the smooth and well-choreographed overall feel.

This choreography and production was such that the 19 very different cast members were effectively portrayed as a single performing company while also having the artistic space for individual expression. Something that, given the personal nature of the content, was of great credit. On top of that, through what I can only assume was clever use of headphone and sound grouping technology, it appeared as though groups of the cast were shielded from age-inappropriate sections and brought in and out of the piece without ever being excluded entirely. A sensitive well thought out way of dealing with something I thought might be a difficult issue.

In short; it’s high quality, it’s entertaining, it’s funny, and it‘s thought-provoking on a topic that might often be neglected on our social radar. Heartily recommended.

4 stars

Review by Damien Russell

“You know like in A Midsummer Night’s Dream where they go to the forest and they explore all these different things – like the donkey and the different creations – porn is like that isn’t it?” – 14-year-old girl, Manchester, February 2018

Theatre-makers Abbey Wright, Shireen Mula and Matt Regan interviewed 10,000 6-22 year olds on what they think love is and the effect of pornography on their lives. Why is the Sky Blue? is the result of these interviews.

In the real words of young people, Why is the Sky Blue? is a blistering and funny new piece of verbatim theatre. With explicit references to pornography and masturbation throughout, this show contains verbatim songs, live music, improvisation and is performed by a company of 6-22 year olds.

Creative Team
Director/Author
Abbey Wright

Authors: Shireen Mula and Matt Regan

Cast
Ruby Ablett, Sophie Alibert, Oscar Bennett, Lewis Elliott, Hal Gavin, Reuel Guzman, Annie Hawkins, Zachary Hing, Tiani Hoath, Louis Holley, Marina Marchevska, Corey Peterson, Jamal Simon, Harrison Slater, Michael Sookhan, Millie Thew, Osian Thompson, Violet Tucker‐Steel and Gracie Weldon.

Tackroom Theatre presents
Why is the Sky Blue?
by Abbey Wright, Shireen Mula, and Matt Regan
26 APR – 19 MAY 2018
https://southwarkplayhouse.co.uk/

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