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  • Writer's pictureMaygan Forbes

The Instrumentals Review: A Love Letter to the Power of a Beat

**** 4 STARS

Growing up in a Caribbean household means one thing is guaranteed. Music, music, music and more music. Saturday morning jams floating around the kitchen, grandad swooning over the beat, mum completely submerged in her own world, humming along whilst she bakes. It was a ritual that created a beautiful energy in our home. Ghosts from the past would drift through the house whilst music was being played and I would later look back on as being one of the happiest times growing up. The Instrumentals (written and directed by Mia Jerome) takes place in the basement of Belle's (played by Maya Manuel) home. At her Grandfather’s wake, Belle is feeling down so she slips into the basement and discovers his old dusty instruments. They come alive in a whole new way and transport Belle to a time where her grandfather was a rockstar.

The Instrumentals flows with nostalgia. It's dynamic and energetic and everything I could have dreamed of seeing as a young girl. Each instrument (played by Elliot Liburd), a member of Grandad's band "The Instrumentals" is given it's own personality that wiggles and shimmy's around. Upon hearing the news of their lead singers passing, they make it their mission to introduce Belle to the superstars her grandparents were. Through song and rhythm, the audience are elevated to the dancefloor. It is such a beautiful tale and works like a dream for children's theatre. From beginning to end, The Instrumentals had every child in the audience enchanted with the stage. They were also singing, dancing, bopping along to Grandad's old tunes.

The perfect introduction to African-Caribbean diaspora for a lot of the children in the audience, and representation matters. Stories and songs that I grew up with, Belle and The Instrumentals represents a tale that I know all too well and it felt refreshing watching it play out on stage. The grief and sadness that Belle feels is comforted and nurtured as she navigates through life without her best friend. It's a celebration of life and The Instrumentals helps to provide some comfort for any child going through a similar emotion or feeling. Understanding our past and how to apply it to our present is a skill I learnt at a later stage in life, so there's something very delicate and lovely about seeing these complex feelings being explored in children's theatre whilst also paying homage to African-Caribbean diaspora.

A testament to Jerome's stellar theatre-making skills, The Instrumentals is another hit from the multi-faceted writer/director. Elliot Liburd & Maya Manuel both come together to add vibrancy and joy to the stage. Liburd plays the multiple personalities of The Instrumentals and is an incredible talent to watch. Little Angel Theatre is a wonderful venue to host a play like The Instrumentals, tucked away in an unsuspecting corner of Islington. However The Instrumentals deserves widespread recognition and to be experienced by children all across the country. It's just so happy and wonderful, and a true exploration of some very heavy feelings. The Instrumentals teaches you the importance of reconnecting when you're young, old, and all the ages in between.

Cast and Creative Team:

Belle - Maya Manuel

The Instrumentals - Elliot Liburd

Writer & Director - Mia Jerome

Set, puppet and costume design - Oliver Hymans

Co-songwriter & Co-Composer - Cal-I Jonel

Co-Composer & Sound design - Féz

The Instrumentals is co produced by: Blouse & Skirt! Theatre Company, Goblin Theatre, Little Angel & Mercury Theatre.

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