Up To Speed brings humour, fine acting skills and some clever ideas to a touching story for pre-teens.
Jade McLeary (Rosalind Sydney) and Barnaby Evans (Laurie Brown) are two, bright P6-ers who have been friends since P1. Barney is ‘odd’: he carries a box instead of a bag; he wears trousers with pockets where his turn-ups should be; and he naively believes everything you tell him. Jade is more conventional, and could be top of the class – if it weren’t for the eccentric Barney.
Jade’s art homework is receiving some well-deserved praise from her teacher - until Barney bumbles in, dressed as a vending machine, and steals her limelight. Jade’s class talk about Dr.Who is going swimmingly, until Barney guilelessly asks her probing questions about time-travel that she cannot possibly answer, and she returns to her seat, feeling small. Barney’s talk – about worms! – contains music and special effects and everyone is blown away.
Resentful, and now unsure of her relationship with her oldest friend, Jade begins to fill Barney’s head with preposterous ‘facts’ about time-travellers, until one day she unwittingly tells him something that could lead him into danger. The next day, when they’re supposed to be delivering a joint presentation for National Science week, Barney fails to turn up for school.
Jade’s solo presentation was the starting point of the performance. Then, using her own unique ‘remote control’, she took the audience on their own time-travelling journey. She rewound, paused, provided edited highlights and even used a split-screen device, to bring the audience ‘up to speed’ with the events of the past week or so.
The ‘remote control’ idea was a clever one, and the consequential abrupt changes of mood and expression were performed with great skill – Laurie Brown’s range of gurning faces held in freeze-frame were a wonder! However, the piece very nearly hung itself on this hook, and the countless repetitions of pausing, rewinding and split-screening eventually lost its impact.
Unfortunately, this meant that Jade’s growing understanding of herself and Barney through her revisiting of the past, the deeper themes of facing anxieties and insecurities head-on, together with the broader theme of acceptance, were left a little lost and under-developed.
Rosalind Sydney always delivers a fine performance and alongside Laurie Brown - the equally talented co-creator of this, her first full production – she delivered once again. However, this perfectly good show should be a really great show: fewer edited highlights and a little more light editing could raise Up To Speed beyond the level of ‘up to scratch’ , to where it deserves to be.
8 - 12 May