Saturday, January 28

Arcadia 87 – Salford Arts Theatre

In this Manchester Fringe Festival production in the heart of Salford, we’re transported back to an 80’s era Brighton Pier. Live a Little perform their debut show Arcadia 87.

The company consisting of 5 MA graduates from The Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts (LIPA); 3 Brits and 2 Americans, who endeavour to create new, innovative devised theatre that connects their stories. 

The story sees 4 strangers brought together when a storm hits the pier: when they become locked in an arcade to hide from the rain, things move very quickly, and they find themselves spilling their deepest, darkest secrets in order to be released.

The script is a bit rough around the edges, it lacks cohesion, moving rapidly through the plot whilst never giving enough to develop characters, relationships, or atmosphere. Although the storyline has great potential to be an interesting dive into some of the deeper themes of sexuality, classism, fear and hope that it explores briefly, the whirlwind nature of the plot means there’s no emotional pull for audiences. Each character’s short story could be very compelling in their own right if allowed to develop fully. As all the characters are strangers to each other as well as the audience, the play tries too hard to cram too much into the short, one-hour run time.

Set in 1987 (spoiler – it’s in the name) audiences can expect to be whisked back in time with funky costumes, classic 80’s bangers and of course those old school arcade games. Despite including many 80’s references to add to the nostalgic vibes of the show, many do feel shoe-horned in as a distinct, yet unnecessary nod to the era. The show is centred around a Margaret Thatcher–meets–gypsy fortune teller box, where, with a few digs at her leadership it also explores issues of class, politics, and voting. However, this brief side note somehow doesn’t make up for the rather random cameo that later seems redundant when another character is introduced (no spoilers).

This young theatre company have great potential to make new, original, and poignant theatre, perhaps with a more direct approach. This particular performance has elements which could be really interesting to see in a different setting, possibly exploring facets of immersive theatre.

Definitely a company to keep your eyes on, as they grow and develop their ideas to bring to audiences across the country.

Arcadia 87 is performing at Salford Arts Theatre as part of the Manchester Fringe Festival until Tuesday 12th July, tickets available here –  

Reviewer: Alison Baines

Reviewed: 11th July 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★