Review: Lucid at Chelsea Theatre, London

Wednesday 10th August 2022 at Chelsea Theatre, London


Reviewer: Emma Dorfman

With Lucid, writer and co-director Laura Henderson Child, Martha Harlan (also co-director) and As If Productions have painted a hilarious, embarrassing, and touching portrait of what it means to be 11 years old in 2010. Lucid is a Dance Nation-esque comedy that uses elements of imaginative stage craft and sound. And the content is so realistic it hurts. You can totally tell that every character is 11 years old. In the words of Lucy, our protagonist, ‘You can tell I’m 11 because I’m wearing a short-sleeve shirt over a long-sleeve shirt’. Pretty soon, her friends Toby, Sammy, Sophia F., and Isaac all follow suit in this style choice.

The piece charts a Year 6 group trip to the Isle of Wight whilst exploring the world of our dreams and the most dramatic parts of our childhood. Everything seemed bigger, more dramatic, and more consequential when we were 11 years old. Each one of these characters highlights this in their unique way, whether it’s Isaac (Ella Downey) failing to chart the proper course through a group caving exhibition (and never getting over it), or Toby (Alasdair Linn) finding out that Lucy (Hannah Taylor) might have a crush on him (and getting sick over it).

Ultimately, we look back on their overly dramatic problems with a kinder heart. I think Lucid reminds us all of that time in our lives when were so afraid to say the ‘most embarrassing’ thing that we almost have to communicate it telepathically. But it also reminds us of our wildest fantasies—the ones we’re still afraid to admit we have today.

Onstage dreams are used to highlight these contrasting themes, and the lines between the children’s dreams and their reality are informed by both stagecraft and sound. These bits were whimsical and highly enjoyable, such as the time Sammy (Layla Chowdhury) and Sophia F (Kiera Battersby) dreamt they were with Olympic diver Tom Daley, whilst Lucy sloshed a hot water bottle into a microphone next to them, creating the effect of an Olympic diving pool. There were other uses of organic sounds to create a more dimensional stage, as well. In one instance, the group decides to build a fire with whatever supplies (in this case, sleeping bags and scraps of paper) are available on stage; Lucy crushes her supply of breadsticks to make the fire crackle.

What is so touching about the stagecraft (at one point, for instance, the characters pretend to be old and jaded adults, rolling up scraps of paper into makeshift cigarettes) is that these props are being used just as the characters themselves would use them. In turn, this signals themes like ‘youth’, ‘excitement’, ‘embarrassment’, ‘shame’ without even using words. The simplest gestures can turn out to be the biggest signifiers for that time in every audience member’s life. Lucid is not trying to say anything particularly new or inventive here, but rather, it is unlocking deep-seated memories that we’d rather forget, and yet, cannot.

Lucid has finished its London run and now heads to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, playing the ZOO Playground between 14-28th August 2022 – tickets can be found here.

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