When you hear a theatre performance is going to be about climate change, mental illness, child carers and the struggle for academic excellence you don’t expect to be in for an entertaining, laugh-out-loud evening. However that is just what we got with a night at Eye of the Storm from Theatre na nOg at Birmingham Hippodrome‘s Patrick Studio. It is an issue driven story with a real lightness of touch, there is humour throughout and the music, written by Grammy winner Amy Wadge is uplifting and instantly memorable.
The play tells the story of gifted student Emmie Price, who is struggling to support her mentally ill mother while fulfilling her dreams to study extreme weather conditions in America. Will her invention for renewable energy be enough to win her a bursary to study in the USA? Rosey Cale is instantly sympathetic as Emmie and you cannot help but warm to her and want her to succeed. She is a fantastic role model for girls, with a passion for science and an indomitable spirit, which means she will not be deterred from following her dreams, no matter how hard things get. I love the fact that she is in a class full of boys, yet doesn’t dumb herself down, and is uninterested in their approval.
Emmie’s mum, Angela, played sensitively by Ilinos Daniel, is debilitated by mental illness. Her performance is finely nuanced as you end up feeling for her, just as much as Emmie, as she struggles and repeatedly to get well for her daughter. It is no surprise, the play originated in 2004 in theatre workshops for young carers, as it seems so true to life. There are moments of great pathos, especially when Emmie and her mum sing about their metal interdependece. I truly felt for her when she was going for an interview after years of not working, desperate not to be a failure anymore. The contrast when Emmie’s imagines telling her mum about her dreams to study abroad and the actual manic conversation is broke my heart.
The real strength of the performance is that we get to see a small glimpse into all the character’s points of view. Emmie’s older half sister, Karen, abandoned the family leaving her to care for their mother. It would be easy to present her as a villain, yet in this story we get to see things from Karen’s side. I also felt a lot of sympathy for Emmie’s physics teacher Walt, facing redundancy yet still dreaming of a playing guitar in Metallica. Both characters get their chance for redemption. We loved Dan Miles as goofy love interest Lloyd. His sweet attempts to woo Emmie were funny and provided some light relief and humour.
The talented cast also act as a live band, with guitars, bass and even a harp. We got home from the show, still singing the songs and instantly downloaded the songs so we could play them at home. We particularly love Alive and Needing Me.
This was a wonderful show which gave us so much to talk about on the way home. We discussed climate change and whether it’s true no one is too small to make a difference. We talked about whether girls should be allowed to do science and about how many children have to care for their parents and why. Most of all we talked about how much we’d loved the show, how funny it was and how amazing it was to see a real tornado on stage right in front of our eyes.
Eye of the Storm UK tour
Birmingham Hippodrome, Patrick Studio
Tuesday 8 – Wed 9 Oct
0844 338 5000* | birminghamhippodrome.com
Tue 15 – Sat 19 Oct
01633 656757 | tickets.newportlive.co.uk
Mon 21 – Wed 23 Oct
01248 382828 | pontio.co.uk
Aberystwyth Arts Centre
Thu 24 – Sat 26 Oct
01970 623232 | aberystwythartscentre.co.uk
Look here to find out more about Theatr na nOg
Disclaimer: We were given tickets to the play for the purposes of this review.