At first glance you may think this is a play about David Bowie, but it is also a play about a boy with an eating disorder, called Martin. This is a play with hidden depths. For those who don’t know David Bowie well will see a play about a boy who likes Bowie. They won’t get his character or why he is so totally obsessed. For those who like Bowie they may not get some of the in-jokes but for the die-hard Bowie fans – nothing is missed. I totally got the reference to Slowburn which may be missed by some audience members. I got the irony of the karoke scene when Martin asks if they have anything from the Berlin period – of course they only have Starman, Let’s Dance and ‘that one with the bloke from Queen’. I ‘got’ Martin. The narrator tells us about Martin and how his dad left him when he was two. He tells us how Martin’s mother drinks snowballs and smokes like a chimney. He also tells us that Martin has issues with food and is obsessed with Bowie. Martin speaks to a counsellor who doesn’t get him – he even has to explain that Bowie is pronounced Bow as in Bow tie and not Bow as in take a bow. She has Googled Bowie and knows he also had issues eating. Is this why Martin doesn’t eat? He is visually exasperated at this.
Martin cannot wait for The Next Day to come out. He knows Les, the record shop owner well and is banging on the door for him to open so he can touch that special gatefold vinyl. He plays Bowie all the time but even when he isn’t annoying the neighbours its internally playing in his head. His dad loved Bowie too. He knows this. On Martin’s 18th birthday his mum gives him a card which is from his dad with a map. The map takes him on a journey. Martin makes this journey from his home in a village south of Northampton, to London starting at 40 Stansfield Road, Brixton. The house where Bowie spent his first five years. This is where Martin is much braver than me. Martin opens the gate that has been there for 60 years that Bowie himself would have touched. He knocks on the door and asks to come inside the house. I have been to Stansfield Road many times as a die-hard Bowie fan but I am just too respectful to trespass on the small front garden and wouldn’t dream to knock on the front door. However, he who dares wins as Martin is let into the house and looks around the rooms imagining how Bowie lived. Martin continues his journey on the map his dad left. Will he get to meet his dad after all these years? What will he find at the end of this Bowie treasure map?
What is so amazing is that all these characters are actually played by only one actor. One of the most powerful performances I have ever seen and with an exceptionally talented actor, this play is something to see again and again. Alex Walton has amazing facial expressions which gives each character its own persona and especially with his body’s physicality that can contort and dance freely in equal measure, Alex is one of the most promising actors on the stage today. This play is written by Ade Berry and although I have no knowledge of his personal life this play is so powerful I would be happy to suggest he is a big Bowie fan himself. I found myself laughing and crying in equal measure. I recognised myself with the passion of loving David Bowie (I even thought ‘what his dad only has one box of records?!). I also think it’s extremely brave to cover the taboo subject of a man with an eating disorder. You come away from this play with a sense of going on a journey in more ways than one. Its extremely emotional and you feel somehow complete at the end. It’s a must see for those who like Bowie, those who love Bowie, die-hards and those with indifference to Bowie. It’s a play for everyone and it will touch you.