“the best piece of theatre I’ve ever seen”
Electrolyte, produced by Wildcard Theatre, is currently doing a UK Tour, and I cannot applaud this production or recommend that everyone go and see it more if I tried.
Electrolyte is a piece of gig-theatre, and combined with spoken word poetry, an intriguing plot, excellent writing and incredible actors, it made for potentially the best piece of theatre I have ever seen. Okay, I am a sucker for spoken word poetry, so I might be a little biased in this respect, but in spite of this, it was brilliant in every wary.
As we entered “The Studio” of the Sherman Theatre in Cardiff, the band were still warming up and doing sound checks, which already made the atmosphere very casual and broke walls between the performers and the audience – something that was repeatedly done.
The narrative is of young adult Jessie from leads, whose friends are all doing things she is not; moving away, getting engaged, and Jessie’s overwhelming feelings of grief for her recently deceased father and other mental health issues force her to make drastic changes as she goes in search for something she has not had before.
I won’t say too much more about the plot, as I would hate to ruin anything, but that is essentially what the story is about. However, Wildcard Theatre cleverly make this show so much more than that.
Through a combination of Olivia Sweeney’s high energy as Jessie, the spoken word script by James Meteyard, and the music composed by Maimuna Memon, I was sucked into the performance from the very first second, and this energy didn’t drop for a second throughout the 70-minute performance. I genuinely let out a breath of air at the end of the production as I felt I had been holding my breath the entire time, on the edge of my seat in constant anticipation on where the story would take us next.
The structure of the piece is unique, as there is very minimal set and all the characters are always on stage, either acting, playing instruments or watching Jessie’s journey unfold. Electrolyte is a combination of an internal monologue from Jessie and real-time dialogue between her and her peers. There is no need for set, as the beautiful prose spoken so perfectly makes a set come alive in your mind unlike anything I have ever experienced before. I can still see those sets in my head that Sweeney describes to the audience – I almost feel I could tell you what the weather was like or what smells were in each setting, the descriptions were so realistic.
Through the combination of this incredible spoken word and an ever-changing, yet ever-constant, score, I found myself getting emotional at parts of the story that weren’t even so – purely because the mix of the artforms came together so perfectly to create something so wonderful. I truly felt myself leaning forwards and nearing to the edge of my seat as I was hanging on Sweeney’s every word, every breath and every slight physical movement or facial expression so as to not miss a thing. As well as this, as the story continues and the audience experiences true emotion at what unfolds in Jessie’s journey, I was quite literally crying my eyes out. The only other piece of theatre that has moved me like this was Come From Away at the Phoenix Theatre in London, meaning that Electrolyte truly is of star-quality.
Without going into too much detail about the specifics of the plot, Electrolyte deals with a number of mental health issues that – as someone who has faced mental health – are presented with integrity and honesty. This realistic portrayal of something so many of us go through choked me up, not only to see myself in Jessie and her peers, but also because I felt grateful that Wildcard Theatre represented me (and so many others) in a way that was so accurate – a representation that is so important, yet so scarce.
The aforementioned Olivia Sweeney in the main role of Jessie delivers a mind-blowing performance, not only from her ability to deliver the speech so well, but her changing of tempo, emotion and energy. She barely stops all performance, and at times is quite literally bouncing around the stage. I’m not sure how she does it, but she smashes it out the park. Watch out for this rising star.
Jessie’s best friend, Donna, is played by Megan Ashley (also on the saxophone) who gives a strong and emotional performance as both Jessie’s hardest stab of reality, as well as her rock. Ben Simon and Chris Georgiou as Paul and Ralph, on keyboard and drums respectively contribute to a wonderful show, and James Meteyard on the decks also warms my heart as character Jim. Robyn Sinclair gives an outstanding performance of Allie Touch, with both her singing and her acting blowing me away – is there a version of the songs anywhere online?!
This incredible show wouldn’t work without all of the cast giving 100%, and they certainly deliver.
Following the show was a quick debrief and Q&A session with the cast which I really enjoyed. The show packs a punch with its themes towards the end, and I thought it was really important to have this debrief and space to breathe. The team explain that the show has been made in partnership with charity The Mental Health Foundation, and I truly believe that Electrolyte is doing positive things to bring mental health to the surface in a safe space where people can see themselves reflected in art, as well as start important conversations.
Don’t miss out on an enlightening, moving and incredible show, book your tickets for Electrolyte now as it travels around the UK, ending its tour on 18 July in London, before heading to the Fringe for a run from 31 July – 26 August.