The attitudes that we pick up and learn stem from our childhoods, our families the first port of call when it comes to this – our school experiences ones that further set in stone how we process the world around us. A celebration of uniqueness and camaraderie, writer Onjali Q. Rauf crafts The Hero Next Door, a tale of a three school peers – Musa, a young refugee, Haley, a girl with ASD and Melody, a school bully who are forced together by a revelation that poses dire consequences if not stopped in its tracks!
Accustomed to others cowering around her, Melody (Chi-Lin Nim) rules the school roost – flippant jabs and a love for showing off her latest dance moves marking her out as a memorable presence. Musa’s (Taj Levi-Matthews) love of football infectious and Haley’s (Katie McConnell) fascination with amphibians, in this particular case a tadpole which she carries around wherever she goes, an endearing quality. The trio a dynamic force who not only learn to get along with one another, but inevitably thwart the wicked plans of the manipulative con artist carer (Sarah-Jane Wingrove) who looks after Melody’s elderly neighbour (Paul Wild) – a friendly, agreeable presence loved by everyone.
Rauf pens a beautifully observed show, her ability to instil the real life experiences of young people is to be applauded. With this story, she presents well rounded beings, and things not being as straightforward as they seem. Themes of migration are prevalent – the idea of migrating here decades ago versus the experiences of those who have very newly migrated an overriding energy that hits home, as this conversation within itself is a heavy one. The elderly neighbour’s experiences of being an evacuee in the 20th century another dynamic to the migration theme that ties multiple generations together.
Annie Smol MBE and Jon French direct a hearty inclusive show. One fuelled with plenty of humour despite the themes tackled, and that speaks to Generation Alpha. Carpenter Richard Rudnicki gifts the stage a quirky primary coloured shell of a home, adorned with various sized picture frames that home various images and props to help establish changing scenes. Howard Read’s animations housed within a child-like drawn cloud up above, stage right further establishes the youthful tone of the show and really brings this animated world to life. Actors Chi-Lin Nim, Taj Levi-Matthews, Katie McConnell, Sarah-Jane Wingrove, Paul Wild navigate this animated world entertainingly, all bringing with them they’re own distinct energies that have us rooting for them – except for one of course!
A fun, captivating watch with a moral crux.
Review written by Lucy Basaba.
The Neighbour Next Door was shown at the Dugdale Arts Centre on Friday 19th May and is currently on a national tour. It’ll next show at Blackwood Miners’ Institute on Friday 26th and Saturday 27th. To find out more about the production, visit here…
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