‘Don’t make eye contact. Mind the gap. Shut your trap.’ So goes the drudgery of London, which this play explores through the eyes of youth. It’s not exactly a novel topic, but Nomad Welders Productions have imagined it intriguingly; spoken word poetry and beatboxing weave in and out of the story to create a dynamic, thoughtful and witty experience. It's something that many of us can relate to, especially those of us who fall into the dreaded ‘millennial’ category.
The play revolves around five characters on the Tube who, in a supposedly unlikely turn of events, get chatting to each other after a mouse invades their carriage. Their conversations are occasionally interrupted by the poetry of the very talented Marika McKennell, and sounds of Irish beatboxer Cull. When they work in sync, it’s a truly fantastic immersive experience, especially as physical theatre is involved too.
Some of the stories are performed more strongly than others. Saul Boyer is a standout as the gangly and optimistic Jim, as is Katja Quist, in her role as the reborn hippie Georgia. At times the lack of plot can make it seem as if the play is leading nowhere, but I think perhaps that’s the point – as McKennell points out, this play showcases the Tube as an ‘in-between’ space, a kind of limbo.
This show is at its best when it brings out its less serious side. Stop announcements are filled with biting sarcasm, puns and laugh-out-loud observations. In fact, the humour of this play is what makes it so great to watch. While it does make mindful observations about modern life, it avoids taking itself too seriously for the most part (evident in Cull’s only speaking line at the end of the show). The moments of humour cut through what could be a slightly trite hour of theatre and manage to keep the audience engaged with the central narrative.
Overall, Mind the Gap proves to be a great example of what youth theatre can achieve when it crosses boundaries into poetry, physical theatre and music. It’s certainly thought-provoking as well as thoroughly enjoyable. While not everyone will fall for its charms (I’m looking at those who deride beat poetry), for those of us who feel slightly disengaged with the modern world, this show provides some great insight into how we can look at our lives – and the lives of those around us – in an alternative and more fulfilling way.