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  • Writer's pictureViolet Mackintosh

Electrolyte (Online Review)

Wildcard Theatre

Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival

Writer James Meteyard

Music and Lyrics Maimuna Memon

Director Donnacadh O’Briain

Starring Olivia Sweeney

Producer Joey Dawson

This week is National Mental Health Awareness Week and never before has it seemed so needed. Locked away from the distractions of normality, we have been faced with our own four walls for weeks on end, with only social media keeping us connected to those we miss, and those we don’t.

“We are made of stardust and dreams” … The message that comes from Wildcard Theatre’s Electrolyte is akin to the first breath of fresh air in your lockdown daily stroll. The Scottish Mental Health Arts Festival is streaming a theatre show per week, this week it’s Electrolyte, winner of the Mental Health Fringe Award in 2018. It explores the medium of gig theatre and spoken word to present the complexities, frustrations and pain of mental health problems through a modern and accessible approach. And my goodness it works.

“We are made of stardust and dreams” The message… that comes from Wildcard Theatre’s Electrolyte is akin to the first breath of fresh air in your lockdown daily stroll.

As the audience take their places, the band are warming up, joking around and casually greeting us. I first saw this show live at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival last year, but the film gives a good impression of the welcoming atmosphere.

For those who don’t know what show they’ve signed up for, which is true for a large number at the Fringe, it was a music gig. It looks as though a group of friends got together to mess about with some instruments and suddenly a story springs into existence through music and their spontaneous voices. But then, it starts: “I need to lose myself in something else” and suddenly there is a shift, this is different.

We follow the story of young Jessie (an intoxicating Olivia Sweeney) from Leeds as everything warps around her. Friends moving and marrying and grief eating her up from the inside. She bounds and dances around the stage, perilously close to the equipment at times, but she is so confident, so content with herself in the space that it never ends in disaster. I could go on watching her for hours – her energy is the electricity in the room.

Every member of the band is integral – they swap in and out to play characters in Jessie’s spinning narrative and switch to and from instruments to play her through the ups and downs. The main singer is Maimuna Memon, who also wrote the music. James Meteyard, the show’s writer, also features as Jessie’s friend and final love interest.

Electrolyte is entertaining, it’s shocking and it’s thought-provoking – everything theatre should be (if indeed theatre should be anything).

As for the story, I cannot say too much, but it is about friendship, mental well-being and letting go. Gig theatre is a trend that won’t go away – that’s for sure. Electrolyte is entertaining, it’s shocking and it’s thought-provoking – everything theatre should be (if indeed theatre should be anything). There is a feel-good factor here too but everyone in the room has earned it by the end of seventy minutes on the edge of their seats.

After seeing it the first time, I cancelled all of my plans for the rest of the day, just to allow it to absorb. There are so many back-to-back shows at the Fringe, but Electrolyte made me stop for the first time in weeks to think about all these people, all this creativity, all this art coming together like fireworks. For the first time – I looked up.

Do watch Electrolyte this week! It will make you rediscover why art is made in the first place. This year’s Mental Health Awareness Week is focusing on kindness and you might consider joining Wildcard Theatre as they show you the power of movement and music in storytelling. It may not be the same on a laptop screen as when immersed in the heat of the Fringe, but this is an unmissable piece.

“We are a blip. A speck of dust.

To be wiped off the face of time

like you might a bike chain’s rust.

But to each of us,

we are everything.”

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