20 Stories High Theatre Company has its roots in the communities of Liverpool. It specialises in telling new stories and pushing the boundaries of theatre. This short one act play tells the story of two brothers and their sister who are abandoned early one morning by their mother.
Cameron who is the youngest is scared to go outside on his own. He is bullied, has panic attacks and wants to be looked after. His elder sister Kerrie knows more about her mother and why she may have left than she lets on and is in turn influenced by her mother's addiction to heroin. Jakey is their elder brother. He is trying to get away from the gang culture in the area but struggles with his own violence and inability to deal with feelings.
When things get too tough for him Cameron resorts to the childish fantasy of his invisibility helmet which is a self constructed object made from an upturned water container and tin foil.
All three fight with the blackberries which they have been reduced to eating. This becomes something of a ritual. It is tinged with violence when it first happens and is repeated in the final scene as a way of resolving the conflict between the siblings.
Another powerful scene is set on the sofa when all three share a duvet to keep warm as the electricity has run out. Kerrie tells the brothers some new information about their father and their mother's reaction to his death. It is quite moving and believably portrayed.
There is disturbing violence as the three jockey for position in the new structure. Cameron wants them to care for him and the others resent this. He can't or won't look after himself. Jakey wants Cameron to stand up for himself and not be beaten up at school but this ironically leads him to bully his younger brother. Kerrie wants Jakey to replace the father they have all lost.
The play asks some difficult questions about how far it is the responsibility of the elder siblings to take care of the younger ones in the face of the abandonment. It also looks at how violence is or can be taught in families and the dangers of drug taking and how best to support a drug taking relative.
This is perhaps too much to cram into 80 minutes. However the writer Laurence Wilson used the experience of losing his sister to heroin as an inspiration for the work which gives the play an added depth. The scene where Kerrie attempts to shoot up heroin was tremendously powerful as her brothers use humour and the bizarre ruse of playing with their childhood dolls to distract her from this behaviour. The audience really resonated to this desperate measure and there was much appropriate laughter.
Whilst the tensions in the new situation were well portrayed the audience knew that they would not see a resolution with the mother as no actor was scheduled to play that character. However this did not take away anything from the power of the drama on the stage.
The set was of a living room and kitchen area in a council flat. The walls of the kitchen merged into brick work. The two levels are well used and the three characters effectively deployed on the stage in a series of different duologues.
Some of the scenes were performed to music with no speech which cleverly evoked a sense of the passage of time. In one of these Cameron tries out his invisibility mask and this really amused the audience and this reviewer.
The performances encouraged from this young cast by director Julia Samuels were committed and passionate. Sometimes as the passion and anger levels rose there was a reduction in vocal clarity and it does take a while to tune into the strong Liverpudlian accents and idioms.
All three performers made a good connection with the audience but the stand out was Leon Tagoe as Cameron the youngest sibling. His struggles with panic and the fear of abandonment were particularly striking as was his childish playfulness.
This drama made a big impression on the packed audience in the Contact Theatre Space 2.
It concludes its short North West tour at the theatre on Saturday 28th November.