Electrolyte – Pleasance Dome, 17:30 Aug 8-12, 14-27
Winners of the 2018 Les Enfants Terribles Award, Wildcard Theatre dazzle in this captivating piece of gig-theatre at Pleasance Dome. You’ll want to take everyone you love to go and see it.
I had the pleasure of first encountering this show at the Les Enfants Terribles showcase at Pleasance Theatre in London. The production company of some friends, Danse Macabre, was also nominated and I agreed to perform in the short snippet of the play that they presented. That evening after fighting through the snow and braving the train delays, the audience seemed aglow as the show opened with the sensational first twenty minutes of Electrolyte directed by Donnacadh O’Briain and produced by Joseph Dawson. I think it’s safe to say they outclassed us all, and I made a mental note to look out for them at the Edinburgh Fringe.
James Meteyard writes a superbly-crafted script which is perfectly balanced by the music composed by Maimuna Memon and performed live by the actors. Unpretentious and genuine, the lyrical brilliance of the poetry flows effortlessly to reveal the interiority of the protagonist Jessie, alongside her prose dialogue with the other characters. The combination of the spoken word poetry and the virtuosity and versatility of the musicians makes for a truly electrifying piece of theatre. Timothy Kelly’s nuanced lighting manages to capture the dreamlike brilliance of the gig, elsewhere suggests a sense of confused claustrophobia, and at times slams us back to reality.
The audience is introduced to the charismatic Jessie (Olivia Sweeney) acting as something of a frontwoman to this magnetic group of musicians. Each individual performer shines as part of an ensemble brimming with genuine camaraderie, stage chemistry, and fun. Jessie introduces us to the sweet and easy-going Dad of the group Paul (Ben Simon); party animal Ralph (Chris Georgiou) provides some delicious comic relief; straight-talking and fiercely loyal Donna (Megan Ashley); and the thoughtful, if gently-mocking, Jim (James Meteyard).
At a gig in Leeds up-and-coming musician Allie Touch performs and the audience, at the same moment as Jessie, are blown away by the phenomenal stage presence and honeyed vocals of Maimuna Memon. Rarely have I seen anyone so completely command a room with their voice, and with the soulful, expressive, and hypnotic song ‘Hurricane’ that opens her setlist Allie Touch has us captivated.
Sobering up from the high of the gig, however, Electrolyte proceeds to tackle mental health, psychosis, and loss in this sensitive portrayal. Feeling penned in by small minds and small dreams, Jessie feels suffocated by the mediocrity and lack of ambition of the people she grew up with. Becoming resentful of friends who don’t seem to be acknowledging her trauma, Jessie decides to follow Allie to London in order to reconnect with someone from her past.
Olivia Sweeney’s performance is as raw as it is enchanting, and the play’s thrilling twist provokes visceral emotion that the audience cannot help but be swept up in. Electrolyte ends with a wonderfully uplifting, heart-warming message as Jessie comes to terms with the turbulence of the play’s events and looks hopeful into the future. “You do you, and I’ll do me” Jessie smiles, as she stresses the importance of living life passionately and sincerely; of reaching out and being there for someone who is struggling to cope; and fundamentally accepting ourselves and each other for the flawed pieces of human nature that we are.
The standing ovation they get at the end of every performance is well-deserved, and Electrolyte is not to be missed. Tickets are available for this fringe from https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/electrolyte.
You can also follow Wildcard on their social media: Instagram/Twitter – @electrolytegigtheatre, Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/electrolytegig/