by Saschk Drakos
Backscratch Theatre is a new company out of County Durham that blends music, puppetry and physical performance to create truly engaging theatre. I was lucky enough to catch their recent performance in Newcastle of Any Good Thing, which explores the folksongs of the Northlands.
The show itself was in the studio theatre of Theatre Royal, which added an intimate feel to the production. They started things off with ‘Ca’ Hawkie Through the Watter’, which I found a bit difficult to follow. While the rest of the company performed the song, Laura Emerson and Michael Daynes acted out a scene that was alternately a farmer (Daynes) trying to control an unwilling cow (Emerson) and a couple out on their first date. I found the concept – overlaying a modern scenario with the scene described in the lyrics – clever and inventive, but thought the actual execution could use some finessing.
The rest of the show, however, flowed smoothly, with the occasional interjection from a pair of snarky squirrels. It didn’t take long for the atmosphere in the studio to transcend simply watching a piece of theatre, to that feeling you had as a child listening to a grandparent or aunt/uncle tell stories in the evening. The performers’ enthusiasm and playfulness made it impossible to not thoroughly enjoy their interpretations of the songs.
Whether it was the humorous version of the Lambton Worm, the slightly creepy rendition of Long Lankin or the haunting Anachie Gordon, the music (fittingly) stole the show. The harmony of the five voices in conjunction with live instruments was a wonderful experience, and would have been worth going to see in itself.
Overall, Any Good Thing was an enjoyable way to spend an hour, and Backscratch provide a welcome reminder that a theatre performance can be fun and silly, as well as serious and moving.