It feels highly appropriate that for our first visit to see an in person performance since last October that the Bristol Old Vic has been transformed into a living room, a place where we’ve got used to be watching theatre throughout lockdown.
But oh how we’ve missed the real thing and it was so good to be back in the glorious auditorium to watch a stunning production.
Outlier is the autobiographical tale of performance poet Malaika Kegode, who has joined forces with the brilliant Bristol four piece band Jakabol. They tell the true story of Malaika’s childhood growing up in rural Devon and the fun, friendship and upset she experienced with her chums Lewis, Ama and Oskar.
For this show, the theatre has become a giant lounge and the scene is set for a house party. The first few rows of seating have been replaced by sofas and rugs are suspended above the stage on which Christopher Harrisson’s brilliant animation is projected.
Billed as “gig-theatre”, Outlier explores the isolation and addiction that many young people suffer in small, rural towns throughout the UK. With little to do in places that are too often forgotten by those living in big cities, excessive alcohol and drug taking are common.
A upbeat first act features Malaika, with the four band members playing her friends, hedonistically moving from party to party. Spoken word, poetry and Jakabol’s outstanding music are accompanied by awesome animation such as text message exchanges between the group and a wonderful moment when we hear of Malaika’s love for Wilkos. As loyal customers at the shop, it really made us chuckle.
The second act, in contrast, is much more poignant as tragedy hits the friends and Malaika tries to leave her grief behind by moving to Bristol.
Outlier has a very important message we must all listen to. In the programme notes it warns “we are losing young people right at the beginning of their stories” because of access to such limited resources and their lives being “trivialised, parodied or simply ignored”.
The pandemic has only added to that isolation for many and bravo to the Bristol Old Vic for giving the kids from small towns a big voice to tell their stories on a city centre stage.
You can stream Outlier on demand until 8 August.