Soapbox Racer – 3 July 2019, Local Theatre, Sheffield

We love a world premiere of a new play, so when were invited to the opening night of a new play about love, loss and connecting with your inner dare devil, we were delighted to send one of our newest reviewers Callum Haigh along.

“For many theatre goers, a one man/woman show isn’t always for everyone. Sometimes, it’s small and feels like it’s going nowhere. But, sometimes, there are these types of shows that do work. Sometimes, they may be small, yet they can project such a massive story at the same time. That is the latest case with Soapbox Racer, a one act play written by Ben Schwarz.

The play focuses on a young girl named Kay (Grace Cordell), who has recently been dumped by her boyfriend Rory. Desperate to win him back, she decides to build a racing car to take part in a racing event. In the process, she starts to reconcile with her father, a man broken by the departure of his wife, and thus begins a coming of age story that forces Kay to think about the world around her.Cordell is the only cast member in the show, playing the role of Kay and voicing other characters as well. In my opinion, this is a clever use of casting, as Cordell plays the role of Kay with such energy that we are instantly drawn into her story straight away. In fact, her performance reminded me of Jodie Whittaker’s performance as the Doctor in Doctor Who. Bubbly and full of ambition, Kay is a character that represents the naive and dreamy young child that we’ve all been at some point in our lives. We identify with her struggle, even if she is going a little too far at times.

As the play continues, and Cordell begins to act out other characters, the story becomes almost hilarious, with Cordell having to balance each character and blend them together. It’s no easy task, but Cordell pulls it off without any hassle, to the point where each character has their own personality. Ben Schwarz is a genius for being able to pull this stunt off.

But with the humour comes a great sense of emotion and drama. Kay’s father is struggling to recover from his wife leaving him, and as a result, his relationship with Kay has been fractured. They begin to connect as they build the car, with Kay having to lie along the way, something that she does feel guilty about. Again, despite Cordell balancing the two characters, we can see the emotions in both of them and how broken they are.

My favourite scene has to be when Kay’s father discovers why she has been building the soapbox car, leading to an argument between the two of them about Kay’s mother. Cordell gives her all in this scene, showing us a fragile girl underneath the bubbly exterior. It’s one of the few times where we get to observe the damage that Kay’s mother bought upon her family by departing, and we feel really sorry for both Kay and her father. It also raises the theme of moving on from your past and looking at what is happening right now, something which Kay has difficulty accepting throughout the play and which she must confirm at the end.

In terms of staging, there wasn’t really much asides from a few props. But that’s besides the point. These props, along with Cordell’s electrifying performance, makes us believe that we are actually there throughout the various scenarios. It’s basically up to us to imagine what the settings are truly like, and with limited staging, the story still manages to feel big. Less is more, as they always say.

Overall, Soapbox Racer is a powerful story that doesn’t require a huge cast or stage. With Cordell leading the show, it’s a perfect example of how a one-person show can be just as fantastic as an ensemble piece. I enjoyed the show, and I hope that Cordell and Schwarz go on to do great things in the future.”

Soapbox Racer will be performed at Local Theatre, Sheffield at 7.30pm until Saturday 6 July. Tickets are £8 plus booking fee for adults and £5 plus booking fee for concessions. To book visit www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/soapbox-racer-tickets-57206255450.

The play will then move on to the Buxton Fringe, performed at Underground at The Arts Centre at 7.15pm on Monday 15 July and at 8.45pm on Wednesday 17 and Thursday 18 July. To book visit https://underthefringe.com/book/.

For further information on Soapbox Racer follow the play on Twitter at https://twitter.com/racer_soapbox or like on Facebook at www.facebook.com/soapboxracerplay.

The Local Theatre is a new 80 seater venue for performing arts in Sheffield, with a specific focus on making the arts accessible to everyone, regardless of their experience level or financial capabilities. They believe that everyone should have the opportunity to have their voice heard, and that theatres should take risks in programming work from new companies and writers. For further information visit https://thelocaltheatre.com.

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