Emily’s Kitchen @ Gilded Balloon, Edinburgh

cast list
Emily Jane Horn
Jonathan Ellicott
Alexis Ramsden
Beth Wignall
Shelley Halstead
Leon Smith

directed by
Nathan Curry

devised by
Tangled Feet
Tangled Feet are a London-based ensemble who specialise in experimental physical theatre and quirky, community-minded collaborative projects. Their devised piece Emily’s Kitchen, a mixture of theatre, music and projected images, began life last year, with a staging at East London’s Oxford House. There it proved sufficiently popular to bring up to this year’s Edinburgh fringe.

A recipient of funding from the commendable Escalator East to Edinburgh initiative, Emily’s Kitchen, explores the life of an “adultescent” who still lives at home with her parents and finds her life slowly dominated by her daydreams. Unlike the didactic Virgins , a similarly teen-orientated piece in Edinburgh care of the Arts Council Escalator scheme, the Tangled Feet production is pure teenage escapism, put together by a remarkably talented troupe of performers. Except that this teen protagonist has already passed her 27th birthday.

Emily fears going out into the world, preferring to live vicariously through her favourite radio programmes, until that is her fantasies threaten to overtake her life completely. These dreamlike sequences are ingeniously and imaginatively performed, but as much as I wanted to enjoy it, the point was somewhat lost on me. Aside from the “get out more” motif, it did not seem to have too many insights into the phenomenon of adults who refuse to grow up and wish to prolong their childhoods. In actual fact, Emily’s fantasy life seems more attractive than her real one, so why should she not live in it? The piece needed something far more substantial at its core to make it resonate, and the production though attractive and accessible feels rather less rewarding than it otherwise might be.

Like Virgins this is theatre created with a younger audience in mind. But being aimed at a young age group should never be an excuse for a lowering of standards and though Nathan Curry’s production was consistently creative in its execution, it did suffer from a degree of narrative thinness. For all its invention, this is still no more than an extended daydream, as whimsical and flighty as daydreams tend to be.

It is however terrifically acted and the entire cast is superb. It contains an element of joy, a sense of celebration of life’s possibilities, that is all too often missing from theatre aimed at younger people, where the drama can often be overly preoccupied with being socially relevant. There’s much to enjoy in Tangled Feet’s production, which will be touring in 2007, but though it proved an interesting theatrical experience, there was something lacking at its centre that made me incapable of fully engaging.

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