You may be forgiven for thinking that a story of children in the care system interspersed with puppets and a cello would add up to a long night in the theatre. but you'd be wrong. Melody Loses Her Mojo, from Liverpool-based theatre company 20 Stories High, is an exciting and powerful piece of drama that had the audience at the Curve gripped until the end.
Opening with a fantastic virtuoso vocal display by beatboxer Hobbit, this is the story of Melody, played suitably pugnaciously by Remmie Milner; a fifteen-year-old teenager who has grown up in the care system. She has been separated from her five-year-old sister, Harmony, as their two foster mums found Melody too much to cope with.
This is a true ensemble performance from a strong cast, with special mention made to Darren Kuppan, whose athletic ability and lovable drug-dealer (yes, really) act was a great counterpoint to Melody's aggression. This strength allows them to deal with the at times dark subject matter skilfully and without being patronising. Hobbit was brilliantly supplemented by the cellist Hannah Marshall and they both remain on stage throughout, offering a live soundtrack to the onstage action.
The first scene with the eponymous Mojo, brought to life fantastically by puppeteers Zoe Hunter and Samuel Dutton, is a highlight. In fact whenever the whole cast were engaged at once the play worked best. When the music was playing, Hobbit was doing his thing, the cast were flying round the stage street-dancing and the puppets were joining in, the theatre really sang with excitement.
Kate Unwin's set deserves a mention too; it feels very much at the heart of the show. The "nothing to hide" feel of the production is continued, as all of the cast do duty as scene-shifters and it works all the better for it.
If the production can improve it's in sustaining the momentum from the first half; there was a fifteen minute period in the second half where the music stopped, the wordiness increased and the pace suffered. A little less exposition a little more action required.
This is a brilliant piece of hip hop theatre, go and see it if you can.