Adrian Berry’s From Ibiza to the Norfolk Broads is a moving and immersive journey of self-discovery aided by the music of rock legend David Bowie. Sole actor Alex Walton captivates audiences from start to finish with his energetic yet intimate performance.
We are welcomed to The Old Market’s auditorium to the noise of waves crashing over the sound system. A sparse performance space is home to a skeletal metal apparatus illuminated by soft blue lighting. Stretches of thin white cloth, spindly bars and bizarrely clad mannequins swarm in and out of shadow.
Alex Walton’s Martin – our teenage protagonist and “town punch bag” – enters the room to the sound of David Bowie’s ‘Time’. He stands awkwardly in a hoodie and t-shirt bearing the infamous image of Bowie on the Aladdin Sane album. We are immediately struck by his out-of-place nature. His posture and mannerisms radiate a sense of discomfort, such that we feel his anxieties as they develop before us.
Martin, we are told by Walton as he occupies our third person narrator, “isn’t like the other kids”. Struggling with depression and an eating disorder, Martin is alienated from his peers and from his alcoholic mother. His solace is in the idealised image of his father who left when he was two, and of his obsessive fanaticism for David Bowie, which he shares with the estranged parent.
The imagery and music of Bowie follow Martin on a treasure hunt across L0ndon in the footsteps of his father. A rich script allows the geography of the city to unfurl before us; the cleverly simplistic and fluid set is (literally) a framework upon which to project a complex physical as well as a mental landscape.
Bowie himself is a phantom of the performance rather than a central figure. Martin’s intense and at times painful relationship with the musician shapes his own journey as an individual, but Bowie himself is there only to inform this specific arc of development, rather than to exist in his own right. The performance considers Bowie as a fluid and shadowy intervention into the art world rather than as a person – a take that may disappoint some hard core fans with established perceptions of the star, but offers a much more nuanced and liberating story to unfold.
What emerges is a performance that is sophisticated and understated in nature, yet fantastically powerful. We leave the space feeling sober and a little delicate; this has been a deeply affecting experience, and certainly not one for the faint-hearted. But against that bleak and morbid backdrop, we take with us a glimpse of hope, compassion and inspiration. All of us share some of the insecurities Martin’s life is so governed by, and there is something in the artistry of this show that can comfort us, just as Bowie’s music has done for him.