Bobby and Amy
Reviewed – 5th August 2019
“a transporting, beautiful, heartfelt reminder that strength and resilience can be found in unexpected places”
It’s the late nineties and Bobby and Amy are thirteen years old. She’s a social outcast, still grieving the death of her father. He’s on the autism spectrum, dodging bullies after school. As fellow misfits, they form a reluctant companionship which quickly grows into a deep, fiercely loyal friendship. The play follows Bobby and Amy on adventures around their small, working-class Cotswold town. In escape of unhappy home and school lives, they play in the old folly, roam the fields, and help Farmer Rodge with his cow herd. An outbreak of Foot-And-Mouth Disease puts their whole world at risk.
Written and directed by Emily Jenkins, Bobby and Amy is a transporting, beautiful, heartfelt reminder that strength and resilience can be found in unexpected places. Kimberly Jarvis (Amy) and Will Howard (Bobby) are outstanding. In addition to their portrayal of the titular characters, they shift in and out of a dozen others, bringing an entire town to life. You walk away having seen a largely populated story, full of nuanced personalities. Jarvis and Howard have made it easy, with just a bit of distance, to forget the show was a two-hander.
Jenkins effortlessly sweeps the audience out of Edinburgh to a rural Cotswold village. I can’t say I’ve experienced a richer, more vibrant setting, especially in a show with no set. Bobby and Amy is a black box production that uses no props or set design. Jenkins’ script does the heavy lifting in bringing us a tactile, almost cinematic experience of the world of the story. Golden fields, greasy fish and chips, the old folly, the live birth of a calf. Looking back, it’s almost a surprise remembering we didn’t actually see any of it.
Jenkins brings the late nineties back in full force as well: Tamagochi, choker necklaces, hand gesture rhymes (“loser, loser, double loser, whatever, as if, get the picture…”), and of course Foot-and-Mouth. The disease is never named in the play, which emphasises its senselessness and injustice. When the farms that employ nearly the entire town are shut down, when entire herds of cows (who have names) are shot and burned, there’s no explanation given; no reason said. The omission of the disease’s name also works to place us more firmly in the children’s world: their inability to fully comprehend the situation, and their powerlessness in the face of it. One day the fields are an idyllic playground; the next they’re on fire. Why? We don’t know (diseases just happen). It’s not fair.
Jenkins gives a poignant, perceptive, and loving depiction of a town hit by tragedy that’s forced to pull together, let go of the past, and change. This is a story of great depth and big heart. It will transport you to a nostalgic, vivid world you’ll want to linger in for a while longer.
Reviewed by Addison Waite
Bobby and Amy
Pleasance Courtyard until 26th August as part of Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2019