Hip hop, club art, beatboxing, slam poetry and puppetry are all coming together in a new show kicking off the Playhouse’s new season. And if at first Melody Loses her Mojo doesn’t sound like your cup of tea, read on. The curious may well be rewarded by this latest production from 20 Stories High, the Toxteth-based acclaimed young peoples’ theatre company.
You may remember some of their previous touring works, including culture year commission Babul and the Blue Bear, and 2010’s Ghost Boy. The new show, written and directed by the company’s artistic director Keith Saha, combines all their trademarks for a show it’s promised will be “full of surprises” – a show shaped by and reaching out to young audiences, but with solid stagecraft and storytelling that anyone with an open mind will be able to enjoy.
20 Stories High has two strands to it – its youth theatre, which often produces hard hitting verbatim community pieces, and its larger-scale touring productions. But the two share the same spirit.
“Our ethos is everybody’s got a story to tell and their own way of telling it,” says Keith. “I’m really interested in bringing young people’s voices to theatre, voices that don’t get heard on stage. Plus, young person’s art forms can be made to be theatrical.
“Melody Loses her Mojo is inspired by real stories about real people. It’s challenging stuff and it goes to quite difficult places. It’s a journey from childhood to adulthood.”
The play is the story of three young people in care, inspired by Keith’s own experiences as well as that of some of the company’s young actors. Melody has been separated from her little sister Harmony, but has the younger girl’s toy monster Mojo to keep her on the straight and narrow (which is where the puppetry comes in).
But when new girl Blessing arrives from Nigeria and tries to steal her best mate Rizla, Melody’s demons begin to take over her Mojo with serious consequences. The three-hander is a very different kind of show for the Playhouse stage.
The story will be enhanced by the involvement of 20 Stories High’s largest creative team to date, including puppet director Sue Buckmaster from specialist company Theatre-Rites, choreographer Kwesi Johnson from London based dance and physical theatre group Kompany Malakhi, club art from visual artist Mark Wigan, a cellist (Hannah Marshall), and international beatboxing champion Hobbit.
“You have to see it to believe it. It’s one of those where you just have to come,” says Keith, who is a former member of the Everyman’s youth theatre.
“The Playhouse wasn’t the most obvious fit to begin with, but I’m really excited about bringing our work to a difference space. It’s like bringing an illegal rave to a stately home, and we’re going to really have fun.”
Melody Loses her Mojo will tour nationally after its Playhouse debut. While the show has been devised with young people and is aimed at bringing youth culture to the theatrical stage to engage those who mightn’t have discovered it before, there is plenty to intrigue theatregoers of all ages.
The company has always incorporated a love of hip hop in its work and promotes the positive side of it – lyricism, dance and music, and social awareness – while challenging the idea of a showy, intolerant bling culture.
Keith says: “The more traditional theatregoing audience, those who are curious, come to see what we do is all about, and they enjoy it. This show will be full of surprises and I’m proud we’re the only ones out there experimenting with the form in this way.”
Melody Loses her Mojo is suitable for audiences aged 13+. It is a Playhouse co-production with Leicester Curve, and will be in Liverpool from September 20 to 28. For tickets and more information, see the Playhouse website or check out the teaser trailer, as well as the crazy business Hobbit gets up to in his bathroom, below.