“Wasn’t expecting that.” That is what Lizi Patch answered when asked “What words will the audience use to describe your show?” And it is true.
Punching the Sky is totally unexpected. It tells us the story of Arthur’s childhood, from being a little boy who enjoyed cartoons, computer games and super heroes, until the day his innocence is abruptly smashed by watching a violent pornographic video online.
The power of the play resides in the fact of you knowing that what is being told is a real story. It really happened to a real kid and Lizi is this kid’s real mother.
The storytelling options are clever. Patch talks directly to the audience with a breath-taking honesty in her words. With her on stage there are two other actors, Rob Ward and Emily Dowson who personify the internet, Lizi’s conscience and Arthur. Sometimes, the choices for their actions are a little bit too illustrative and it feels like childish acting, but most of the time their contribution to the plot is great.
There is also a projection of a brilliantly edited video that adds a funny element to the show, and helps going through the delicate moments.
The set is mere and works well. The costumes don’t work at all, they are all connected by the colour yellow, and are also related with the song ‘Yellow’ by Coldplay (sung twice during the show), but they are confusing and don’t seem to serve the kind of realistic acting that is presented.
The text is very simple, yet effective. Many up to date themes are explored: peer pressure, motherhood, hidden dangers online, relationships between kids and their parents.
Even though the subject of the play is interesting and the honesty in the actors’ words is moving, the overall effect is a bit patronising and moralist. I’d rather be left with loose ends so that I can reach my own conclusions about how dangerous exposure to the internet can be to children.
However, I do understand that Lizi had an urgent appeal to devise this show because her 11 year old child having to deal with hard core pornography is a big deal. It takes a lot of courage to admit that being a mother can be something really frightening and that there are moments for which no parent guide will give you answers. Therefore, I definitely believe that the show is relevant and the theme is important enough to be carefully looked at.
Punching the Sky is playing at Soho Theatre until 30 April. For more information and tickets, see Soho Theatre website.