Eye of the Storm at The King’s Theatre Edinburgh (Thu 19th to Sat 21st Sept) is a production that is far more than the publicity for it would indicate. This production from Theatr na nÓg and Swansea Grand Theatre is a musical drama from Geinor Styles and Amy Wadge (a Grammy Award Winning songwriter who has worked with top names including Ed Sheeren) that is obviously targeting a school age audience with its environmental message. The depth of writing here, however, raises this production far beyond this simple concept. In fact, the youth market targeting of this show is perhaps not letting this story reach the far wider age group audience that it should be playing to because Eye of The Storm is not a school aged only story, but one that, although it can be enjoyed on many levels by a young audience, gives us a family drama for everyone that raises many more issues than just environmental ones, and it does it with a light and delicate touch.
Giving this drama both its youth and environmental focus is Emmie Price (played by Rosey Cale) and her dreams of studying storms and weather patterns at a University level whilst at the same time possibly finding a way to harness some of their power to create an environmentally friendly and renewable energy source. The very complex issues around storms, their destructive power and global warming are simply put forward here, but not dumbed down for the target audience, which is good as young people simply do not need that approach; they are always far more intelligent than many people take them for.
Emmie Price has a complex relationship with her bi-polar mother, Angela (Llinos Daniel) and she is also her registered carer, and this shifting of who should be responsible caring for whom is well handled in some very well written song lyrics that have a depth that is often at odds with the bright and upbeat country style songs. The use of songs to deliver a message here is a well tested and tried one, but particularly effective for its youth targeted audience. Here, Rosey Cale and Llinos Daniel are well cast here and the shifting dynamics of their relationship are interesting to watch, and made more real with the introduction of Emma’s half-sister Karen (Caitlin McKee). At times we also move into the darker areas of a psychologically dependent parent manipulating their child to their own needs and, again, this production wisely makes no attempt to dumb down this issue here.
Although it is not the main focus of this story, this relationship does highlight the fact that many young people are carers in many different situations for their parents, and many give up years of their youth and personal opportunities they can never get back to do this for people that they care about.
On a purely musical level, the idea to give everything an Americana Country feel fits in well with the story line as America is where Emmie hopes to go and study. The use of Rosey Cale in the lead role here is then more obvious as Rosey is a singer-songwriter in that musical genre in real life. There is a CD album (and downloads) available of this show’s soundtrack and it is well worth having a listen to as there are some very good tracks here – “Pie In The Sky” and “Emmie Don’t say” being only two of them. Using a “live on stage” band (who in many cases double as our cast) also gives an extra layer of interest to this show.
There is a lot going on with the technical side of this production and a very simple but effective set is enhanced with very clever image and film projection which at times is used in unexpected ways.
If I have one issue with the show though, it is that our cast of “school-aged children” should be just that, played by people of that age as adults never look right pretending to be school-children. Rosey Cale does however manage to get away with this more than the “boys” do. I can, however, see many reasons why this production chose to go down this casting route.
Global warming and the many issues raised from it in this show are not going away, and up until now every generation has simply been happy to leave the next one coming along to somehow clean up their mess. That of course has never happened, and our young generation now has run out of that option, this problem needs addressed now, there are no second chances here.
We have all passed on a huge ecological debt for our young people to pay the price for, but the problem is far deeper than just the ecology of the planetary system called Earth. We are all over-consumers of finite planetary resources and we need to change completely our culture of personal aspirations and consumption. However, when a global economy is based not only on that consumption of goods and resources, but an ever increasing use of them at a faster rate, then to solve even part of the ecological problem a completely new economic system needs to be in place. Are we all prepared for this, and what are we each willing to give up to avoid being caught up in “The Eye Of The Storm”?
Review by Tom King