Review: Muckers, Tobacco Factory Theatre
It's testament to the energy and enthusiasm of Patricia Rodriguez and Caroline Horton that a lot of this play was performed in Spanish as well as English, but it made absolutely no difference to those of us in the audience who aren't bilingual. It didn't matter if we couldn't literally understand every single line, as we were completely transfixed by this strange, dreamlike world that we had entered into, from the very first moment.
Best friends Paloma and Pichon are the Muckers, the two protagonists in this family show, written by Horton herself. The definition of muckers is 'persons who deal with and delight in dirt' and 'old friends/soulmates'. These best friends certainly spend a lot of time messing around in the first part of the show, as they delight in choosing costumes from the huge pile of colourful clothes in the corner of the set. They dress up whilst hilariously pretending to be everything from flamenco dancers to actors in an Australian soap opera. But their fun comes to an abrupt end when they are targeted by a mysterious blinding light called Big Luz.
Pichon suddenly disappears and it is Paloma's task to find her, all the while being aware that the slightly sinister Big Luz could appear without warning at any moment. As Paloma contemplates her loneliness, there are some really touching moments from Caroline Horton, as well as some fantastic original songs which show off her strong singing voice. There is also great chemistry between her and Patricia Rodriguez, and it's lovely watching the fun relationship between the crazy Spaniard and the more reserved English woman. (Paloma and Pichon means dove and pigeon in Spanish).
However, it is Rodriguez who steals the show, interacting with the audience from the very first scene, and communicating using physical comedy, as well as lots of talk about poo and toilets, to really capture the hearts of the children watching. The lighting design by Ali Hunter was brilliant and really set the mood perfectly for each scene, and the costume design is one of childhood dreams, using everything from balloons on sticks to toilet seats with fairy lights to help create some weird and wacky characters which appear as Paloma searches for Pichon.
This is one of those magical pieces of family theatre where the set is minimal and a lot is left to our imaginations. So much of it can be interpreted differently, but overall this is a fun and mischievous show which takes us on a surreal ride as we contemplate our own worries and the anxieties of growing up. More than that though, it's a celebration of international friendship. As Caroline Horton says, "It feels really important for different cultures and languages to collaborate with each other. We live in a world where there is less and less collaboration, when there should be more and more - can we make connections instead of building walls?"
Verdict: As the Muckers programme states, life is fun and funny, and a little bit loopy. That certainly describes this show which is unlike anything I've ever seen before. Let your imagination run wild and enjoy this fantasy adventure with the whole family.
Age recommendation: 7-97.
Running time: 1 hour.
Muckers has been touring the UK. See more information here.
Disclaimer: I was offered two complimentary tickets in return for an honest review. All thoughts are my own. Photos were provided by the production company.