It barely seems possible that it’s been over nine months since David Bowie unexpectedly released a brand new album (Blackstar) to critical acclaim, followed by the indescribably sad news of his death two days later. With Lazarus about to open in London, it’s rather timely that Adrian Berry’s play, From Ibiza To The Norfolk Broads, has a short run in the capital.
Ever since Martin discovered a box of his dad’s old possessions, he has loved David Bowie. In finding an idol to worship, he has an escape from feeling like the odd-one-out – and comfort in the midst of being treated for an eating disorder. Martin identifies with Bowie, finally finding somewhere he can fit in. On his 18th birthday, his mum gives him an envelope from his dad that she’s kept for 16 years, inadvertently leading Martin on an adventure of a lifetime…
The show is an interesting mix of sound & vision – from live acting, to video projections, music & voiceovers. This mixed media approach has its pros & cons; occasionally the music competes with what’s being said onstage, and there is a reliance on the technology working smoothly & keeping in sync with it. However, it wouldn’t complete the picture if none of Bowie’s music were included. The recorded voices are also a great asset – Glenda (Margaret Campbell) elicits glimpses into Martin’s way of thinking, whilst Rob Newman’s voice performances of Bowie himself are absolutely spot-on.
All of the live performance sections are where the piece is at its best. Part third-person narrative, part first-person experiences (mostly Martin himself, but occasionally other characters he encounters), Berry completely captures what it is like to be a fan. For me, the show is not just about celebrating Bowie & the impact he’s had over the years, but about what it’s like to be such a fan or someone or something that it starts to engulf your entire existence. Most people can relate to this on some level (I certainly can), though obviously for Martin it crosses into an obsession. His “treasure trail” across London in the footsteps of his hero (funded by selling some old records & carelessly jumping on a bus from Northampton) is testament to just how far he is prepared to go – and a fascinating watch.
Alex Walton’s performance is nothing short of extraordinary. He puts himself (& the audience) through the emotional ringer with a highly empathetic performance of a boy who is struggling not only with his illness, but also with fitting into society whilst finding & maintaining his individuality. Walton also captures the dark comedy of the piece perfectly, often through knowing glances to the audience in his role of narrator. The obvious energy he uses to show Martin’s all-consuming passion for Bowie is captivating, making his journey all the more gripping, right up until the very end.
My verdict? An absolute must-see if you love Bowie, or for anyone who’s ever been a dedicated fan of anything – an enthralling hour of theatre in atmospheric surroundings that will blow your minds.
From Ibiza To The Norfolk Broads runs at Waterloo East Theatre until 6 November 2016. Tickets are available online and from the box office. It will then tour the UK until 4 December 2016 – full details and tickets are available online and from individual box offices.