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Review: The Adventures of Sky the Reluctant Hero

First off, I had never been to the theatre before so this was the first show I have seen on stage. I was not exactly sure what to expect but I thought it would involve a bigger stage with more actors and maybe a musical element to it with a popular story line, but this was completely different.

It struck me as more of a personal, contemporary, arty, monologue piece, the sort of thing people often stereotype as arty student theatre. Something which can be confusing for a regular audience, as part of this audience myself I was pretty bewildered and was not actually sure as to what the deeper meaning was. It was both bizarre and brilliant at the same time. This is what I would imagine Lady Gaga was like when just starting out.

“The Adventures of Sky the Reluctant Hero” is the story of Sky, the girl who has not slept for six months. Nikky Norton Shafau did an amazing job in this one woman show exploring the reality of mental illness and insomnia. She had the ability to portray a variety of different characters and scenes in her life without even a single costume or set change. The storyline took many sudden twists and turns in this dream like play and with every fiber in her being she managed to express powerful emotions.

She begins the play in a big library with rows and rows of books, before coming across a big red book called ‘Digging Deep’, which is full of blank pages on which her story is to be written. She takes us through various points in her life. As a child being brought up by her grandmother she takes us through her culture and family traditions. One of the main themes here was the idea of working hard to achieve something, rather than taking the easy way out.

There was also fairytale dream element throughout the play with fictitious descriptions of reality, such as her grandmother’s description of her parents as astronauts on the moon. At various points in the play she explored her identity crisis, struggling to find her place in the world by directly asking the audience rhetorical questions like, “Who am I? Where am I? Do you know?” which involved the audience making them ask themselves these questions.

The theme of religion was a central part of the play with the description of “Grey town” symbolizing heaven with its “golden gates” portrayed through a light projection of a city skyline. Lights changed according to changes in mood helping the audience to keep up with the changing scenes.

Sky tried to escape her demons through various superficial outlets like alcoholism, sex and consumerism. She illustrated the effect of peer pressure leading to a loss of identity painting a vivid picture of these scenes through the use of music. She portrayed night life through loud club music, vigorous dancing and voice changes. She sang karaoke changing the words of the song “Diamonds” by Rihanna to suit her character. She even had a rap battle with a bear projected as a shadow on the wall.

Humor played a big part in her performance as she switched from serious to light hearted in a bipolar manner. Her dramatic movements were the aspect of the play which stood out the most. The eccentric portrayals of her internal struggle, pouring water over herself then summersaulting over the bed into the head board snapping it clear off the bed left the audience with their mouths gapping open.

The whole performance kept you on the edge of your seat. Props were laid about the room leaving the audience wondering when they would come into the story, there was, for example, a top hung on a hanger from the ceiling which was used to represent the idea of capitalism.

The structure of the play followed in very rough chronological order of her life randomly jumping from one thing to the next. I do feel the structure could have been planned a bit more because it was quite difficult at times to follow the storyline the links between scenes. But I also realise that this element added to the dream like quality, leaving it open for interpretation.

Ultimately, it left the audience feeling like they were in a trance. The various themes explored in the play resonate with us all and make us question what makes us happy and what defines who we are.

Sky highlighted the main reasons for not being able to sleep as loneliness and confusion over identity which can only be escaped through superficial things for a short while until they catch up to you and the only way to find peace is to face them head on no matter how difficult it may be. As my first theatre going experience I enjoyed it because it was so unorthodox, but I would prefer to see a more traditional play if I was to return to the theatre again, as that is what I was initially expecting. However, I do think everyone should experience the wacky yet serious side of theatre at least once in their lives.

Tags: Contact Theatre., digging deep, insomnia, mental illness

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