Pros: A moving and well-constructed piece of storytelling, with the most unexpectedly beautiful ending.
Cons: There were issues of visibility when Welsh performed at ground level.
Adam Welsh thinks his dad is disappointed in him, and it’s easy to see why he thinks he might not have lived up to his dad’s high hopes. A quick Google search of his name demonstrates that maybe he hasn’t been as successful as his dad would have hoped. In fact Google brings up endless results for an Adam Walsh, an American child who went missing long before Welsh was even born. And that missing child with the similar name is the starting point for the show. But it’s a whole lot more than a show about a long missing child; from this simple start Welsh tells a story binding his life with the missing child, a story of coincidental similarities, and a story about family.
TBFTGOG is a piece of beautifully crafted storytelling that draws you in slowly, carefully, unexpectedly. As the tension builds you want to, in fact need to, know more about both people. Even the silent pauses are moments that leave you holding your breath until he begins again.
The style is very reminiscent of another master storyteller, Mark Thomas, just a little less angry and sweary! Aided by assorted props, laptop and video screen Welsh takes us through both his childhood and that of his near name sake, Walsh. For the most part, visually it’s striking, although there are moments when it doesn’t work perfectly; the floor level staging means that even sitting just three rows back you struggle to see what he is up to when he is lying down or sitting, or playing a floor mat piano with his feet! It’s a small fault though that could easily be ironed out in a different venue.
Much more visually successful is the use of laptop and video. As Welsh tells the story of how Walsh went missing, he recreates it with Lego characters, the whole scene displayed for all to see clearly via webcam on the screen behind him. Simple. Clever. Effective. Even more effective is the way Welsh recreates the scenes that start to play on the screen behind him, taken from a 1983 movie about the child’s disappearance. As the screen plays clips from the movie, Welsh imitates sometimes the mother, sometimes the father, and in this imitation he somehow adds to the tension that has been building all evening. This reaches a crescendo when the anxious parents take a dreaded phone call; Welsh re-enacts it, mouthing words and duplicating body language. As the father unleashes his pain and anger on the screen, Welsh imitates and improvises with various props, and in those moments it feels like the whole audience has stopped breathing as we watch, wait and pray that what has been said is somehow wrong. Welsh simply brings everything alive.
Interwoven throughout all this is the tale of Welsh’s own childhood and his relationship with his parents, told in part with video clips of his parents filmed for the show. It’s here that Walsh and Welsh’s lives collide. As he tells of the frantic search for Walsh the story flips back and forth to a similar incident when as a young child Welsh went missing, hearing his mother’s anguish. Walsh and Welsh almost become one in these moments, drawing to mind the shows’ title quite brilliantly, without ever needing to say it out loud.
As the show ends in the most unexpected but heart-warming way, and the audience filter out, two things are for sure; firstly, with a show this good, Welsh’s dad is bound to be proud of his achievements now, and second, Google will show more results for Adam Welsh from now on.
Writer/Performer: Adam Welsh
Associate Director: Timothy Trimingham Lee
Producer: Ellen Waghorn
Booking until: This show has completed its current run