This final tour of From Ibiza To The Norfolk Broads launches rather appropriately from the main stage of Derby Theatre. The ‘appropriate’ claim is connected with writer- director Adrian Berry. Ade Berry the theatre writer, first got fascinated with theatre after seeing a landmark production of Germinal by Paines Plough on this very stage when it was Derby Playhouse. That was his personal theatrical epiphany. How amazed would his younger self be to realise the extra-ordinary response his acclaimed From Ibiza To The Norfolk Broads has received world wide as a contemporary theatre writer and director.
This is essentially a bravura one man show with other voices, including Rob Newman as the voice of David Bowie and Margaret Campbell as the voice of therapist Glenda. Walton narrates the piece throughout and deeply inhabits the role of a disturbed eighteen year old teenager, Martin. He also brings to life other very believable characters throughout the 80 minute show.
Alex Walton’s Martin is riddled with angst and hidden pain after he believes his parents ‘fucked him up’. The poetic quote is taken from Philip Larkin’s poetic anthem to troubled kids This Be The Verse. A chance discovery that his often sozzzled mother loved the music and fashions of David Bowie in her own youth makes the music icon a person to look up to and a guide for living a less depressing life. As a complete Bowie fan Martin’s joy and mental retrospective is expressed almost singularly through the music of David Bowie. The bulk of the beautifully written and excitingly directed piece takes us on a journey to London with Martin. His absent and estranged father has gifted him a birthday present for his eighteenth birthday – a map of London and various locations connected to the birth place and teenage years of David Robert Jones – later to be re-imagined as David Bowie.
We follow Martin’s dark adventures in London and peculiarly affecting decisions at the house David Robert Jones grew up in. We virtually hold our collective breath as the vulnerable Martin travels on via a very rough London pub, a beguilingly magical old toy shop and down to the Docklands where the lapping of the waters echoes the very start of the show. All through the journey Martin speaks to his father as if he were ghostly at his side but wishes he were more present. He is desperate for re-union and for love.
The writing and expressive stage language from the actor mean that we are completely drawn into Martin’s odd, and often very funny, perspectives. We move in and out of the piece – taking occasional visits to Martin’s therapist Glenda and their revealing conversations. David Bowie’s music and songs add to and inform the story in very creative ways. Alex Walton’s central performance is magnetic as he weaves this compelling tale of sound and vision and the packed Derby Theatre main house auditorium are completely wrapped up in this imaginative, witty and essentially – very moving tale.
As Alex Walton takes his well deserved bows we would like to think that the spirit of Bowie is watching in admiration and compassionate understanding.
From Ibiza To The Norfolk Broads runs at Derby Theatre Mon 15th to Tues 16th Jan. Catch it while you can.
Reviewer: Phil Lowe