Keep on Walking Federico @ The Traverse Theatre

Image contribution:
Actors Touring Company

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:

Production Touring:

Kith @ Assembley Roxy

Image Contribution:
Adam Greene and Adam Gordon

Writen and Directed by Adam Gordon

Truth is often difficult to find within folklore, where it’s hidden behind illusionary metaphors. Sometimes, however, a talented storyteller can excavate the elusive bugger. Adam Gordon’s Kith is a modern folklore tale which tells us the story of Glasgow-born Dani (Adam Greene), the son of a migrant mother who shrouds her past. After her passing, Dani sets out to uncover her origins along with his own.

This isn’t all, though – the narrative writhes and twists in on itself. To begin we are introduced to Adam, a young purveyor of stories. This time the story isn’t finished yet. His dreams of Dani spark a desire to poke into what is unanswered. In the end, Adam tells us about Dani, who, in turn, seeks the truth about his mother.

Falling on its own sword, Kith suffers from a notion it directly addresses: intangible stories without endings. Individually, the overall narrative has elements more similar to skits or scenes. Separately, almost any one of these are fragments of genius; together, these fragments are lost in the dark waters of convolution. Some pages of folklore graze against one another, the transition of time or character communicated well. Other points suffer from leaps of unexpected perceptions. We’re not entirely sure if we’re seeing Dani, his mother, Adam or a being entirely unearthly.

Greene’s performance is fitting for Primal Dream Theatre; the presentation is visceral, almost violent at times. His entire existence is given to these characters in these precise moments. His ability to move the audience’s sense of location and time is impressive but outshined by his ability to personify abstract concepts of mortality, war, folklore and love.

The in-house technical team for Primal Dream Theatre helps to focus on modern fascinations and notions of identity, immigration, isolation and the shape of violence and bigotries. Sound design boosts Greene’s impact, especially in an intense scene following suicide – the revving sounds of the human mind amidst flickering lights underscore Greene’s performance as he ‘restarts’ into the next scene.

Ambition is an admirable feat, which will pay off for Kith in time. Its performance components are honed, delivering powerful emotion. At times poetically written, there’s merit in crafting a story within a story… within a story. But the multi-layered narrative needs ironing out with clearer structure.

Review originally published for The Skinny: