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REVIEW: Redcoat at North Shields The Exchange

“You’re never fully dressed without a smile - but if you see someone without one, give them one of yours”


Fri 21 October 2022, North Shields The Exchange
Thu 27 October 2022, Hull Truck
Sat 29 October 2022, Alnwick Playhouse
Fri 11 November 2022, Saltburn Arts Centre
Thursday 17 - Saturday 19 November, Edinburgh Traverse Theatre
Thu 24 November 2022, Arts Centre Washington 

Written & performed by Lewis Jobson
Directed by Melanie Rashbrooke
Created & devised by Lewis Jobson & Melanie Rashbrooke
Produced by Emma Biggins & Steven Blackshaw

The energetic tour de force one man show about a recent graduate's experience as a Butlin's Redcoat is heading out on tour from Hull to Edinburgh. We caught the show on opening night in North Shields.

As the programme explains, this show began in a bar at Edinburgh Fringe as Lewis Jobson was recalling what it was like to leave Fenham in Newcastle and to head for a season as a Redcoat in Bognor Regis. As he described coping with the very long days in which he was expected to be an always smiling entertainer from breakfast until the end of the evening's show it become apparent that they had material for a show. There is humour in a tale of disobedient kids and pushy parents. A world in which making balloon animals and sweating in huge character costumes is considered an asset. 

This is a world that is familiar to us as we found ourselves working in the British holiday industry in 1992. A season of long days and alternating between customers having a great time and those who want to have their say about an issue. I still remember watching someone's grandmother totally losing their shit over the fact that the last roast beef Sunday dinner had just gone and they were going to have to choose an alternative. Watching Redcoat Lewis brought those memories flooding back.

The show begins in Fenham in Lewis's bedroom. The removal men are due and he is having to decide what to bin and what to keep. Amongst the stuff is a suitcase for "Redcoat Lewis". Naturally, he starts to recall what it was like. His journey begins at an audition in Newcastle and before he knew it Lewis was heading off for what the employer called an "experience of a lifetime".

Training included rules that I recognised (I was unable to do normal stuff like drink whilst wearing the uniform and yet I was expected to be social on the evenings - a paradox they never properly explained).

Once the season begins Lewis turns in to a high energy performer. The theatre audience becomes the Butlins audience. You don't have to join in with the clapping but if you do you will enjoy the experience much more. 

The energy of the show is infectious. This 70 minute performance keeps building up the pressure. Each time the audience join in there is more enthusiasm as Lewis describes policing the children at shows and photo opportunities before describing the evening shows. Then he exposes the audience to the debauchery of the night off in Chichester. Some of his flat mates go home for the weekend and don't return. The dream job is in actual fact a lot of hard work. It is not a job for everyone.

Lewis Jobson is an entertaining raconteur who precipitates a high level of energetic credibility in this role. You do not question the veracity of the narrative. Thus when the pace changes it is quite an event.    

Redcoat is a special piece of theatre that is well worth seeking out. Producers The Six Twenty have another hit on their hands.

Review: Stephen Oliver

Photos: © Iam Burn, The Six Twenty 

Fri 21 Oct, 8pm at The Exchange (North Shields)
Thu 27 Oct, 8pm at Hull Truck (Kingston upon Hull)
Sat 29 Oct, 7:30pm at Alnwick Playhouse (Alnwick)
Fri 11 November, 7:30pm at Saltburn Arts Centre (Saltburn)
Thu 17 - Sat 19 November, 8pm at The Traverse Theatre (Edinburgh)
Thu 24 November, 7:30pm at Arts Centre Washington

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