An exuberant energetic production, We Grew Up In The Back Of A Van profiles the childhood of two young Irish girls, Caite (Charlotte Duffy) and Siobhan (Charlton O’Connor).
Dressed in school shirts and pinafores with long white school socks, Duffy and O’Connors commitment to the piece was magical. With incessant energy, they forged a childlike take on the situations so the audience were viewing it from their perspective.
The scene was set by describing the van which their ‘ma’ drove. What followed were accounts of incidents at the school choir, tea with the new neighbours, avenging their mum, games in the house, and generally the girls playing havoc with each other and the various characters in their life.
The black box space was used creatively, with a few props and mostly the use of some cardboard boxes. The girls used the space to roll and race around in, physically creating the setting around them. For me, this was a mark of great theatre: by using their storytelling and thoroughly allowing the audience to use their own imagination, this drew us into their accounts of the stories, and completed the childish nature of the whole production. By the end of it, they were absolutely covered in the chalk drawn on the floor to illustrate their van!
A 90’s soundtrack of B*Witched, Shania Twain and The Spice Girls accompanied the shaving of their legs and intertwined with the scenes, which made me reminiscent of my childhood. The direction from Katie-Ann McDonough was very well done, most likely because she also wrote the piece. The writing allowed the girls to explore the moments in between their lines and find comedy in their quips and fights with each other, with very realistic fight choreography by Dominic Rose. Their connection and relationship was pitched extremely well, and every child who grew up with siblings can relate to at least one of their moments. The script was descriptive and their treatment of times when they slipped into other characters had the desired effect; it was like children doing impressions of the adults in their life, which left the audience laughing heartily.
Unfortunately, this 45 minute play fell slightly short for me because the storyline failed to progress, which left us entertained but didn’t really lead us anywhere. When their parents split up, the moment of sadness was subdued and we quickly moved onto the next funny story. Aside from that, it was a thoroughly entertaining evening and I left wanting more mishaps from the duo.
We Grew Up In The Back of A Van is playing White Bear Theatre until 5 December. For more information and tickets, see White Bear Theatre website.