Anna Freeman’s black comedy drama Cicarda’s Children stars Mark Jones as footloose and fancy free Danny who’s unwittingly fallen for a surviving member of a now defunct cult, Cicarda’s Children, Bella (Anna Freeman). Duped into believing Bella into launching a coffee shop, Danny spirals into a descent that involves relinquishing every aspect of his 2022 identity.
At only 50 minutes long, this short production is a mere taster or perhaps even portfolio of what Freeman as actor and writer are capable as writer and actors. Or perhaps a vignette of a wider on-going story. So, the Fringe is the perfect frame to perform this short one act play that has ‘A Play, A Pie and A Pint’ quality to it.
At the centre of this weirdly charming piece are Jones and Freeman, whose consummate unforced natural portrayals of their character are a delight to watch. And while Freeman is writer/actor, Jones also has the difficult task of duplicating his performance in the second half exactly as Bella shares her perspective on raising a cult. Jones’ effortless approach makes it seem simple.
Understandably this performance is curtailed by the confinements of venue and of course budget. The pub scene’s soundscape really brought some further depth to the scene and this technique could have been employed in the hustle and bustle of their first meeting or in the confusion of Danny’s first conversation with Bella. Meanwhile the confusion and surreal nature of Danny’s hazing could have been developed with further simple lighting and soundscapes. The production team clearly have it in them to illicit some impressive dramatic effects with limited resources and more should be made of it.
Freeman’s writing is seemingly born out of the cultural references of the past twenty years. Revelling in the rising cultural awareness of cults thanks to Neflix series and TikTok admissions. It snugly fits in with societies burgeoning obsession with horror of cults and the lengths they drive their members to. Danny’s introductory monologues have a somewhat Peep Show quality while the dark comedy of Bella’s second half relies upon breaking the fourth wall similarly to Phoebe Waller-Bridges’ Fleabag. Meanwhile, the overall approach is reminiscent of a comedy drama BBC3’s heyday or channel 4’s Black Mirror. With further development this wee snippet of promise could certainly find a new home.
Unpolished, rough around the edges but filled with plenty of promise- Cicada’s Children is a brilliant chance to see some new blood; it’s a fantastic showcase of fresh writing and acting talent from two consummate performers cutting their teeth into new opportunities. And think of it as so- a glimpse of undiscovered talent that will hopefully be making their way onto boards and screens soon.
This production runs until the 27th August, https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on#q=%22Cicada’s%20Children%22
Reviewer: Melissa Jones
Reviewed: 17th August 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★