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Everywhere Theatre review

Review: Hairy, Polka Theatre

Author: Mary Pollard in Family, Fringe Theatre, Reviews 10 July 2023

FOUR STARS – Excellent

A wonderful, wild adventure of personal (hair) growth, that will leave the whole family happily washed, brushed and beaming

The Polka Theatre is routinely fabulous, offering a beautifully varied range of works for young people and their adults, in a venue that is specifically tailored to their needs. As new Artistic Director, Helen Matravers really hits the ground running, overseeing Hairy. This extraordinary, exhilarating and joyously ridiculous show from Spymonkey shouts to the rooftops about Polka’s principles of equality, inclusion, diversity, and offering children the highest quality entertainment. It also has fart noises.

Hairy is a wild ride of laugh out loud comedy, superb performances, and surprising sensory stimulation, with active children completely at its heart. Hair follicle Hairnry (Matthew Faucher) arrives at Hairy Mission Control with big dreams – to be Head Hair. His fellow team members support him through his training, and along the way share their hopes and desires, all as different from each other as they are. We encounter some crazy coiffure and some disco dancing; we see the team tackling tests such as shaving by demon barbers, a nasty nit army and disturbing dandruff. There’s even a bit of science thrown in for interest. But with generous quantities of slapstick, live music and exciting action, it’s basically fun, fun, fun all the way.

There are brilliantly energetic performances from Faucher and his fellow cast members, who demonstrate impressive skills in absurd physical theatre, comedic delivery and choreographed movement. John-Luke Roberts as Al is a master of audience interaction, deftly engaging the young audience without remotely patronising them. Once encouraged, they don’t hold back, calling out enthusiastically and loudly! The follicles perform funny and fancy dance moves, with a choreography credit going to Jasmine Chiu, who also plays Hairiet. Meanwhile, Katie Grace as Hairmione sings like an actual rockstar in her Rapunzel fantasy, leaving the audience gaping. They make it all look easy but it’s clearly meticulously rehearsed and precisely balanced against the jeopardy of such open audience participation.

Toby Park and Aitor Basauri’s direction is daringly ambitious yet clearly controlled. Energy levels hit thrilling heights, particularly as the action reaches out into the auditorium and the audience actually undergo a full wash, cut and blow dry (you need to see it to believe it)! But these levels are neatly trimmed with quieter moments that allow excited children a little downtime, and to follow the story. The rest of the creative team come at it full throttle with stunning results. Lucy Bradridge’s set and costume design is gorgeously colourful and textural, providing for an amazingly sensory, spectacular experience that fills the space, whilst Rajiv Pattani’s delightful lighting and Yvonne Gilbert’s lively, eclectic sound design are full on fantastic.

And Hairy is just the show we need “right hair, right now!” – for all those children out there who’ve missed practising social skills due to pandemic isolation and disruption; for all those children who might benefit from examples of collaboration and community; for all those children who need to know that they can belong and just be themselves no matter what their colour, shape or personality. And of course, for all those children who really just want to have fun. We’re all part of the same body.

Yes, you will leave with your face aching from laughing, surrounded by happy, engaged children, but much more than that, those children will have been active – enjoying being in an immersive enactment of teamwork and positive behaviours. They will have spoken up and been heard, and been part of making theatre happen themselves.

You know when you see a show and you want to go straight back to watch it again? See you for a trim same time next week…