Roundabout, a ‘unique pop-up theatre that flat packs into a lorry and pops-up around the UK’, has come to Wales for the first time. At Theatr Clwyd, the small, circus-like theatre is forming the stage for the introduction of three new plays: How to Be a Kid by Sarah McDonald-Hughes, Out of Love by Elinor Cook, and Black Mountain by Brad Birch. These plays, presented by Paines Plough in collaboration with Theatr Clwyd and Orange Tree Theatre Productions, will be touring the country from now until 3rd March 2018.
Sarah McDonald-Hughes’ How to Be a Kid is a wonderful journey into the mind of a twelve year old whose mother suffers from depression following the death of her Nan. Molly, or Super-Girl as her mum and Nan call her, has to step up to the plate to care for herself and her little brother Joe. Inevitably, things run awry as Molly struggles to keep up and the tasks become too great for Super-Girl to surmount. Overcome with the stress and worry of trying to care for her mum while maintaining an outward appearance of normality, Molly throws in the towel and runs away. Not to be outdone by his older sister, six-year-old Joe, or Super-Boy, runs along with her on their ‘fantastic, very serious adventure’.
With only three actors on stage, the company is small, but the energy in the room is not at all compromised. Katie Elin-Salt stays in her role as Molly for the entirety of the performance, while Sally Messham and Hasan Dixon effectively and entertainingly flit between several personas during the course of the play. With no props, but lots of music, sound effects, and detailed narration, the story moves along apace, the actors filling the stage with vibrancy and vitality. The chemistry between the actors is clear as they work together to bring Molly, Joe, and a whole host of other characters to life.
The simultaneously heart-wrenching and heart-warming story about death, grief, and love is couched in a wonderfully bright performance containing comical choreography, ‘cake and an epic car chase’. Backed by the music of Taylor Swift, Elin-Salt, Messham, and Dixon handle the difficult subject manner with care and grace, ultimately sending the message that even though it feels as though you have to take the weight of the world on your shoulders, your family will always be there with you to help share the load.
At only 50 minutes long this is an ideal play for school children and, as McDonald-Hughes set out to achieve, the piece is ‘celebratory and fun as well as real and authentic’. More than anything How to Be a Kid is enjoyable, with several laugh-out loud moments, and just as many tearful ones. It’s certainly a play that people of all ages can appreciate, but told from a fresh perspective that isn’t often seen.