Review: The Static, Traverse Theatre

Brian Vernel as Sparky in The Static
Brian Vernel as Sparky in The Static
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Troubled teenage outsider Sparky is diagnosed with ADHD.

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He wears outsized headphones to drown out the voices in his head, and is threatened with expulsion from school.

He meets seeming kindred spirit Siouxsie and the confusing initial sparks of their nascent love seem set to take him over the brink, beyond redemption before, well, doesn’t do to spoil.

Now, take those seemingly humdrum ingredients and toss in a dose of telekinesis, excellent choreography, lashings of coarse Scottish vernacular, seamlessly blended multimedia, plus four excellent performances and some teacher kung-fu (no, really) and you have an agreeable recipe.

It covers a lot of ground: medication in the treatment of “disorders”, self-help, step-parents, cosmic ordering, the myths we tell our children and quantum theory (again, no, really).

There’s some great dialogue. The young leads, Samantha Foley and Brian Vernel, are excellent and the physical theatre is outstandingly well done. The use of the Ritalin bottle as our hero embracing his telekinetic powers is quite mesmerising.

There’s a lot going on: possibly too much, in fact.

This Thickskin production debuted at the Fringe, and here it sticks to that one-hour running time, briskly chopping from scene to scene and theme to theme. As a result, while there’s undoubtedly momentum, it maybe has a wee bit of ADHD of its own. An extra half hour might give room to develop out some of the themes a bit more for some added depth.

The core material and the quality of the staging and performances suggest that might be worth doing. Both of the teachers have interesting stories, very well played but only half-told.

There are a few high school classes in this evening, and it’s noticeable how the laughter switches from the pupils for the sweary bits to the teachers as Mrs Kelly (Pauline Lockhart – not only terrific in this, but also a 3rd dan black belt, apparently) delivers a monologue about the change in her classroom as the switch is flicked from childhood to adolescence. Something for everyone, in other words.

The Static takes on challenging subjects, and makes them into very watchable theatre.

Run ends tonight