A review of From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads
Stepping into the small studio space of Camden People's Theatre, I was transported for two hours into the twilight world of Martin, a teenage Bowie obsessive who lives in a hospital for people with eating disorders. The set itself simply consists of three beds, Martin's strewn with Bowie memorabilia, mainly consisting of some very tasty posters and some well placed "intellectual" tomes, books that Martin has only read (if he has) because Bowie did.
The play itself is gripping and has some very moving moments, coming mostly from Martin's relationship with Nancy, a maternal nurse played to tear-jerking perfection by Margaret Campbell. Her scenes were genuinely touching (she is one of the only truly pleasant characters) and she and Alex Clarke (Martin) have a genuine on-stage rapport.
A young cast cope ably with what is at times a very wordy script, with Laura Churchill stealing the show as the bitchy nurse Alex, with a pair of natty red shoes (one of many witty in-jokes for hardcore Bowie maniacs to get). It is through her character that we see Berry's real questions; are Anorexia and Bulimia real illnesses, or simply ways of getting attention? He goes on to suggest that the responsibility for young people's problems lies squarely with their parents and their screw-ups; the emotionally retarded Simon stating that he can't help it "It's the way I was brought up". This is Berry's finest moment; he strikes right to the heart of the matter and pulls no punches.
Lynne Austin shines as Martin's ruined, alcoholic mother, giving one of the show's funniest speeches about her husband's Bowie obsession which any Bowie obsessive would cringe at in recognition of themselves. Here, Berry shows a true understanding of the completely irrational nature of an obsession and the bizarre extremes obsessives go to.
Martin's relationship with his sister is portrayed as having a slightly sinister undercurrent as the play progresses and Katie Lewis and Alex Clarke work well together. They are both off to study Drama and should succeed with the talent they obviously have already.
The show did seem slightly hurried and perhaps could slow down a little; it could also benefit from more scenes outside Martin's room (although the claustrophobic atmosphere works very well), perhaps seeing Martin and the other patients in their therapy group. Rob Newman's Bowie voice-over is truly creepy and Stephanie Marshall's sometimes hilarious choreography works very well, the end sequence evoking the hysterical atmosphere of the retirement gig perfectly.
The rest of the current London run is sold out, but Tiny Dynamite's production will return briefly run next year and is an absolute must for any Bowie fan. Hopefully the play will be put on in a larger space as it really deserves it and I'm sure it will mature greatly with a second run.