JOYCE MCMILLAN on WONDER at the Bongo Club, Edinburgh, for the Scotsman 19.5.14.
4 stars ****
THE SPACE looks like an underground playground, full of floating silvery balloons; but there’s much more than play going on in this latest show from leading Edinburgh young people’s company Creative Electric, already seen in Glasgow, Edinburgh and North Berwick, and set to appear again at the Kelburn Garden Party in July. As the audience gathers, some of the largest balloons, suspended from the ceiling, begin to groan and chirp with strange sounds orchestrated by designer Joshua Payne. Then the floor comes alive with struggling bodies, and at four full-length mirrors in the corners of the room, two young men and two young women appear, struggling with issues of identity and self-image made sharper and more acute both by the fragility of 21st century family life, and by the constant media-driven pressure – now applied to boys as well as girls – to match the physical perfection of some minutely-groomed superstar celebrity.
Based on the RJ Palacio novel of the same name, Heather Marshall’s latest Creative Electric production covers some familiar territory for young people’s theatre. What’s striking about it, though, is the strength and maturity of the monologue writing, based on participants’ own experiences; and the intensity of the interaction with the promenade audience, as the four performers – Hannah Gipp, Mark Hannah, Christie Russell-Brown and Will Stringer – wrestle unforgettably with the tension between their need to speak truth and show vulnerability, and their fear of being pitied, marginalised, or even punished, for any show of weakness.