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The Mountain Bluebird
The Courtyard Theatre
1st February 2015


Publicity image for Tartuffe

Photography provided by Taking the Mick Theatre Company s

With The Mountain Bluebird his very first play, Jamie Eastlake has gone all-out. Lad culture, politics, social media - he's grabbed hold of everything vaguely current and caged it all in one 60-minute fast-paced four-hander. As far as debuts go, this is promising stuff.

The production opens with sisters Amelia (Victoria Gibson) and Sophie (Jennifer Thompson) fighting viciously in the way only sisters can. There's a very believable rapport there, but this isn't a play just about family life. There's another plot involving social media: how it influences people and how people want to influence it. And there's yet another plot about political extremists - the rise of Britain First in the background of Islamic terrorism. All three strands are carefully woven together by Eastlake, but there are a lot of ideas here. Overambitious is one word for it.

Amelia and Sophie's dad, Mike (Dermot Dolan) is presented to us as an odious man who believes his own vitriol. We see Sophie desperately trying to extract herself and her younger sister from what she perceives to be a dangerous environment, and Amelia not really sure if that's what she wants for herself. Is her dad so very wrong? She can't quite decide. She's still a teenager, and on top of all the usual hormonal angst, we see her being pushed and pulled in different directions and no matter how badly she behaves towards Sophie, it does nothing to dislodge our empathy for her.

Twitter guru Josh (Isaak Robinson) bridges all the different arcs: he's the online flirt, the online troll, the online saviour. His involvement in these plots can be confusing, but the characterisation is always strong. Robinson shows us all of Josh's swagger and bravado, but also his desperate need to be liked (or at least collect "Likes") and the vulnerability that is most evident when he's away from a computer. He may have created a two-dimensional image for himself, but we get to see who he is really is and to an extent, we pity him.

As well as this overwhelming bleakness, there's a lot of humour too. Eastlake writes some wonderful throwaway lines ("I've completed Tinder") and breaks up the darkness with plenty of laughs. He does try to do too much and pack too much into just one play, but he really succeeds at creating genuine characters with well-developed back stories. Each character gets a reaction out of us, even if it's not a positive one.

The set design by Eleven11 is truly special, although this is a show which could have made do with something far simpler. The stage is covered in piles of broken computer peripherals, wires and clock faces, linking back to the importance of IT to and the passing of time, but it also gives the production a futuristic end-of-the-world feel. Of course, with this being contemporary, it isn't the end of it all - but I guess what with Mike's actions, you do feel slightly depressed and this grungy, bleak dressing also hints at that. Essentially, it's nice, but again, you're left feeling that the company are trying too hard.

The Mountain Bluebird is funny, it's tragic, it's beautifully acted. Picture of star, picture of a star, picture of a star, picture of a poodle. Hashtag worth seeing. Defo.

The Mountain Bluebird opened on 29th January and runs until 15th February 2015 at the Courtyard Theatre.

Nearest tube station: Old Street (Northern)

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