1979. Bristol. A bunch of no good, scrappy youths are tricked into building a playground out of junk by their groovy, flare wearing mentor. Junkyard, a charming musical by Jack Thorne (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child), harks back to a time where children ran free and savage.
This ensemble cast are each exceptional at portraying this sense of youth and adventure in this unique coming-of-age tale. There’s a sense of disillusionment, yet a powerful spark of childish optimism. There’s light and shade to all the characters. Admittedly the first act is an extremely slow burner. The songs felt dreary, repetitive and not particularly emotive. I also had a hard time connecting with the characters. But when the second act came rolling in I fell in love with the group and I fell hard. Erin Dotherty’s performance as Fiz was timed to comedic perfection. And Jack Riddiford’s mischievous Higgy won my heart with his cheeky/creepy smile and completely erratic characterisation.
The playground itself was any child’s (and probably set designer’s) dream. The actors constructed it themselves throughout the play. An impressive barricade was even constructed during the climax of the second act – one that could possibly rival Les Mis! I was tempted to get up and play on it myself, despite the fact I’d probably get a splinter and a life-long ban from The Rose Theatre.
One might assume that having not spent my childhood in the 70’s or 80’s I would not be able to connect with the sense of nostalgia the play evoked, yet the message of the story is still relevant to today’s generation. Children will always have the right to play no matter how many times the term ‘childhood’ is redefined. And places like the Lockleaze playground in Bristol should always be there to facilitate that right.
A feel good show that is not for all the the family because the word punt* is used quite a lot.
Junkyard at The Rose Theatre closes on Sunday the 30th of April.
Special thanks to @amymccann39 for booking these tickets. The Rose run a under 26 £5 offer for certain performances, Mon-Thurs & Matinees.
*what rhymes with punt?