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  • Henry Longstaff

Bounce - Lion and Unicorn Theatre

Parental guilt and empty promises are explored in Tom Derrington’s new play

A man stands with his hands together, talking to the audience. A woman stands behind him, hands on hips


"Don’t call them dreams, call them plans," states the aggressive self-help video proceeding the nonsensical waffle spouting Jesse's entrance. His all day lecture promises to change our lives and help us become a success - just like him. Sylvia wants to hear what he has to say, but not for the same reason as the others packed into the room. She wants to understand what happened to her son after he absorbed Jesse’s words, his promises of prosperity and happiness. Where did it all go wrong?

As Sylvia, Chrissie Derrington expresses her growing guilt through delightful maternal mannerisms as she shares the events that led her to Jesse’s talk. Her authenticity shines through as she speaks, quietly hurting but maintaining composure near perfectly when faced with the trauma that brought her here. Chrissie rarely lets the emotion of the words overwhelm her performance, instead growing the stakes calmly, bringing a weight that would not work with shouting, screaming and crying. A higher point of despair may help the piece slightly, emphasising the peaks and troughs more, but regardless a resoundingly strong performance.

A polar opposite to Sylvia is Jesse, performed brashly by Nick Robinson, a perceived flair of tech entrepreneur about him, equipped with his blazer, jeans and brazen trainers - imagine a crossover between Jeff Bezos and Andrew Tate. He loudly assures greatness of everyone in attendance though the substance of how fails to materialise, instead belittling the struggles of those present to great applause and Sylvia’s disbelief. Robinson easily embodies the role, beating his chest to assert his status in the room and despite his empty words finds charisma to make me feel like I could change for the better.

Tom Derrington’s script achieves what it sets out to do. He has crafted a grounded piece that subtly expresses the lengths parents will go for their children - the mundane sacrifices right through to the bold risks. Overflowing with attention to detail, it equally warns of false hope and the fairytale that everything can be perfect all of the time. The language, particularly for Sylvia, provides space for the actors to thrive, forming a solid foundation for their performances to flourish.

Nonetheless, there is scope for small improvements to the play, the ending though perfect, arrives suddenly without quite enough conclusion to completely satisfy, and if the production lives on in a future run (I hope it does), I would love to see more from the design elements to elevate the piece further. A unique concept that explores the extremes of familiar themes, Derrington and team have struck upon huge potential and I look forward to seeing how it evolves next.

Running until 10 June - Tickets

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