There’s a moment when a packed crowd, that’s been holding its collective breath for what seems like an eternity, suddenly roars forth in standing appreciation for something simultaneously fresh, different, yet utterly essential and the feeling is one of pure catharsis. The shared release of emotion between artists and audience that resonates for an age. Tonight, at the culmination of Wildcard Theatre’s stunning, hybrid musical we experience one of those moments.
Electrolyte is a study in grief, illness and passion but more than that, it is a love letter to friendship. It’s a story of hope and loss told through the collective sound of six people, connected by a love of music and one another. We meet Jessie (played by the imperious Olivia Sweeney), an inner city northern girl who yearns for something other than getting wasted every weekend with her mates. When she spots the talented, soulful Allie Touch (Maimuna Memon) in a nightclub, she is immediately seduced by the thought of something bigger.
What follows is a breathless, exhilarating and heart-breaking journey to find something new, something old and an answer to question that has been lurking beneath the surface like a splinter in a fingertip. A chance encounter with the kind-hearted Jim (James Meteyard) offers a chance at redemption as Jessie stares face to face with her past and future self.
The real charm and power comes from the way the characters effortlessly roam and interact with the space around them. Nothing is off limits here, each member switching between instruments, microphones and handing the baton on, artfully and graciously sharing the spotlight.
Jessie tells her story in a mixture of sickle sharp, self-knowing asides and half spoken, half sung rhymes, injecting energy and humour at will, totally convinced that she is on the right path. She is a constant, irrepressible presence, charging up the aisles, flipping the bird and clinking glasses with the front row.
Luke Robson’s set design is almost spartan, evoking a live rehearsal space that serves to exaggerate the action within it, creases in a simple white sheet backdrop amplifying dramatic changes in lighting as each scene plays out. All genres of music help to give real emotional impact as abrasive, urgent jungle beats and hip hop are expertly counterpointed by sparkling ballads and the sumptuous vocal talents of Memon.
The entire thing feels so fluid, it’s like watching your mates at an open mic, downing drinks in the pub, listening to the story twist, turn and intertwine. Director Donnacadh O’Briain knows not to hem the talent in, allowing all manner of shit chat and mischief which cements how live and unpredictable a production this truly is.
When the twist arrives, its shattering. An immediate loss of balance, like a punch to the back of the knee. The core message, hidden at the heart of the piece, suddenly reveals itself and plunders the senses.
Go and see Electrolyte if you love music. If you love stories. If you love to roll and rock and jump on the spot. After all, we are all made of stardust and dreams.