Why is the Sky Blue?
Reviewed – 1st May 2018
“rightfully disturbing show but it is also artistically impressive and highly entertaining”
Drawn from the voices of 10,000 children and young people, a group of actors, representing a diversity of age, race and sexuality, portray the powerful impact pornography is having on a vulnerable society. For ‘Why is the Sky Blue?’, director Abbey Wright extracted the essence of interviews she had conducted in schools and theatres all over the country in which she recorded discussions on this sensitive subject and, more generally, on love and connection. With the dramaturgical collaboration of Shireen Mula, she has transformed their words into a theatrical statement on the need to repair the damage done by the accessibility of pornography to this age group. The show is aimed at adults to demonstrate the need to talk and listen to children, but Barnardos and Tackroom Theatre have also joined together on an educational project offering support.
After an ice-breaking opening by one of the youngest members, we meet the rest of this talented troupe whose ages range from 6 to 22, all strikingly at ease on stage. With energy and flair, the testimony of thousands is presented, building a picture of a situation they are part of. They interact with the audience in humorous question and answer sequences and tell stories of real experiences. There are excellent performances of Matt Regan’s pastiches, expertly composed in true musical theatre style. The messages of the pensive ‘question’ song, the melancholy ballad, the upbeat numbers and the grand finale are driven home by the poignant lyrics. On several occasions the mood changes and we listen to their face to face re-enactments of eye opening conversations.
Slick choreography (Josie Daxter), as we pass through the various sections of the show, creates engaging pace and fluidity. Elliot Grigg’s lighting is in perfect harmony with the different elements, notably in the contrasting musical moments. The array of chairs used for the set, designed by James Turner, make for versatile group combinations while keeping the whole cast together – a reminder of the compass of fragile ages touched by this issue. Cleverly, the familiar sight of the young wearing headphones is incorporated to include everyone, but specifically to protect the younger children from being exposed to “inappropriate” material.
The disconnection pornography produces means that it remains a clandestine, unspoken area, individually absorbed, used and hidden. Whether it is revelation for the pre-internet generation or incredulity for those who trust parental blocks, it is painful to be confronted by this aspect of modern life. Although, or perhaps because, the tone tends towards the lighthearted, even though the script is often moving or explicit, one comes away bewildered by the blow of reality; the importance of being made aware sinks in more slowly. ‘Why is the Sky Blue?’ is a rightfully disturbing show but it is also artistically impressive and highly entertaining.
Reviewed by Joanna Hetherington
Photography by Marc Brenner
Why is the Sky Blue?
Southwark Playhouse until 19th May