Writer: Mark Lockyer
Director: Alice Malin
We will never live to see every truth unearthed. We will never find all which has been buried beneath the grains of sand about our own, our parents and companions lives. No matter how hard we try to uncover these, to ponder them – we just can’t do it.
Any familiar with the courageous steps which Mark Lockyer has accomplished in recent years regarding his own mental wellbeing might recognise themes through Keep on Walking Federico. To refer to it as a ‘follow-up’ to his previous production Living with the Lights On wouldn’t be entirely incorrect, but this also stands as a solitary piece. The real grounding feat is that regardless of foreknowledge of Lockyer’s history the production accomplishes a closeness and identifiability with its audience.
Exploring perhaps the second most relatable aspect of life following our own identities – is that of our parents and where we come from. To really answer questions on ourselves, we have to know where we came from and how we came to be. So, Lockyer finds himself in Spain, responding to correspondence about his Father’s history. On the advice of his therapist, Lockyer embarks on a trip to reconnect with his parents, particularly his lesser-known Father.
To help guide Lockyer through his journey are a colourful cast of characters we have no issue in believing are real, despite their overblown nature. All given life, individuality and manners by Lockyer himself. From the enigmatic, envy-inspiring though deliciously named Dr Bueno to the rotund Dutchman that is Damon, Lockyer has encountered enough people to stage a series of plays. The physical transformation for each is impressive, accents accompanying most of them. His Mother though receives a different kind of performance.
The heart of the show rests in these interactions with his departed Mother, the gravitas too, is located here. Powerful messages surrounding death, lost opportunities and the value of parents exist in these snippets. Though suspicions lie that her characterisation is exaggerated, pushed for the stage, Lockyer portrays her with love, determination and in one scene, the monumental power only a Mother could display.
Dedication to enticing an audience’s focus down such a personal journey, even if staged with comedic elements is tricky. Lockyer’s writing is fully engrossing, luckily – we relate to the story on some level to find a reason to become invested. What furthers this is the performance put into it, Keep on Walking Federico is crafted with tremendous passion, which director Alice Malin and the Actors Touring Company are no doubt proud of.
Staged sparingly, our set is simple on the surface, yet conceals many secrets. Its design in relation to the narrative is brilliant. Gradually as Lockyer uncovers his father’s history or his mother’s heroics the set evolves with him, revealing more secrets. Geraldine Williams design works wonders with the clean-cut lighting design by Christopher Nairne.
Transitions, in an otherwise stripped back production, are irksome. Far from poor, they are complex and require adjustment when gauging which character Lockyer is playing, followed by what time period. From an early age, we encounter his mother frequently towards the end of her life. Max Pappenheim’s sound design signals a shift, an ethereal whirring. It works, but it’s the only character interaction to receive one, so change feels sudden, stifling the flow.
The production has issues with flow and wobbly transitions, but manages to keep us invested in its overall story. It does this with recognisable themes, though more importantly a notable, affectionate performance by Mark Lockyer. Keep on Walking Federico is poetically constructed, rekindling an appreciation of our parents.
Review originally published for Reviews Hub: