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Manic Street Creature at Roundabout – Edinburgh Fringe review

Music and storytelling are woven into this deftly crafted show

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

© Eleonora Briscoe

A large part of the success of Wildcard's breakaway gig-theatre piece Electrolyte a few years ago, composer Maimuna Memon (who musical aficionados might know best from Jesus Christ Superstar at Regent's Park Open Air Theatre or in the original cast of the award-winning Sheffield musical Standing at the Sky's Edge) is back at the Edinburgh Fringe with a new show, the semi-autobiographical Manic Street Creature.

The premise is initially straightforward – a bright-eyed Lancashire musician Ria (Memon) drives down to London alone, bristling with excitement. The bright lights of the city house opportunities – for gigs, for friends, for connection. There, she falls for a boy, Daniel, but the meet-cute meets obstacles – namely Daniel's struggles with depression, his unexpected behaviour and protracted absences.

The first quarter feels like a bit of Dolly Alderton's Everything I Know About Love (somewhat naive 20-something travels to London, finds a rented room in Camden, works in a creative industry and inadvertently falls in love) blended with Jean-Pierre Jennet's Amélie (daughter, moving to the big city, grappling with the emotional consequences left by a parent's mental health struggles). But the writing goes satisfyingly further, becoming much more caustic, consequential and charged. How do you help someone when mutual co-dependency might prove more damaging than supportive? As Daniel's circumstances worsen, Ria has to confront both her own future and that of her relationship.

It's not an easy ride, but what really stands out is Memon's brilliant, evocative score. Amongst some of the best live performance you'll find at the Fringe, she provides a lyrical, at times almost ethereal canvas to her own near-solo narrative brushstrokes.

A framing device involving Ria recording an album of tunes (each "track" demarcating a specific moment, or thought, or sensation of the story) gives the show a strong backbone – adding an extra meta-narrative around the sometimes messy interaction between art, memory and ordeal. Memon has proved once more why she's an asset to the music and theatre worlds, providing an intimate and unfiltered production.

Check out our dedicated Fringe guide