Missing? is a new work written and devised by Knowsley-based youth theatre Altru, an ensemble piece examining big ideas of loss, love, and humanity.
Thanks in the programme are given to theatre companies including Paper Birds, Big Wow and Tmesis, and you can see their influences on this hour-long piece, a well-paced and well-measured mix of full-cast set pieces and break-out scenes of monologues or two-handed drama. There are also stylistic similarities between this production and Altru’s previous performance at the Bluecoat, of Jonathan Harvey’s Tomorrow I’ll be Happy. A large backdrop (courtesy of Strange Case Collective) spells out the name of the show on giant suitcase tags and doors, and a rock soundtrack between scenes keeps things bursting with energy.
Missing? begins and ends with the cast breaking the fourth wall to share with the audiences a bit more about the decisions they made as a collective when devising the work. It’s a nice, honest touch that works in this context, as there’s a real sense of ownership with the work that shines through.
The characters go on to interweave and cross paths in a smart piece of storytelling – there’s the brother and sister separated after a lifetime in foster care; the policewoman forced to remain professional while allocating a new identity to a teen offender; a young married couple fretting over the cost of their daughter’s birthday party; a young guy finding his confidence by flirting with girls online; a teenage runaway and the support worker on the other end of the line; and free spirit Bella, willingly going wherever life takes her. At first, there seems to be little connection, but worlds to collide as the story starts to come together.
The ensemble scenes are striking in their physicality and expression – as mentioned earlier, there’s touches of Big Wow’s frenetic pace and Tmesis’ depth of movement that works well. Altru’s collaborative spirit has helped the company to develop a strong, recognisable style all its own.