This isn’t your average caravan holiday
Who knew a (not so) innocent mint choc chip ice cream could lead to two years of domestic havoc? Caravan certainly sets itself up to shock and surprise. For the most part it succeeds, though in areas it could do with more focus.
Caravan follows two years in the life of a dysfunctional Liverpudlian family in the early 1990s and (surprise surprise) is set in a caravan. We follow Kim, her sister Kelly, their single mum Josie and their increasingly complex and claustrophobic world. The show sees no need to break us in gently.
An absusive encounter between Kim and a twenty year old Mick changes Kim’s life forever, the secret of what happened on that Autumn afternoon in 1994 threatening to pull apart the fragile hinges upon which the Caravan and the family are built.
The show itself raises important questions, covering the depravity of industrial unemployment, domestic violence and sexual abuse. This is effectively communicated. The play has a capacity to shock, forcing the audience to think. At the same time, there are some cracking lines bringing humorous relief to difficult issues- without such humour the show would be too morbid. At times, the lessons the play wants us to learn can seem a little forced. In other areas dialogue can stagnate, the ending seeming unsatisfactory for the relative length of the show.
These minor errors though are largely the result of the play itself and not the acting or direction. Generally, the direction was superb and the cast were excellent. Sophie Taylor as Kim is quirky and charming, mastering the Scouse internations with ease and poise. Laura Pujos‘ portrayal of Kelly is also of note, her sense of emotional depth and drive evident throughout. Rachel Bircher as Josie really shines though, encapsulating the slightly dotty persona of the Scouse lass with morbid and infectious humour.
Joe Shalom‘s performance as Mark equally brings the grit needed for the dark character. In areas, lines could have been ironed out more, and the (notoriously difficult to pull off) Scouser accents could hint more Loughborough than Liverpool in places. This, though, can be forgiven by the sheer energy and verve that the cast brought to the production.
One of the biggest credits to the show is the set, which is an absolute triumph. Transplanted into the centre of the ADC stage, the life size caravan opens up mid show to reveal a furnished yet shabby 1980s interior. Every detail has been thought out, as if it were lived in in-between rehearsals. The costume is also on point, the vibrant addidas tracksuits and flared denim putting us slap bang in the middle of the early nineties. Oh, and I was feeling the soundtrack.
For the most part, Caravan hits you hard and goes to the jugular, though in places it slows. What it says is profound, though it can feel forced and stretched out. Its social critical, darkly humorous and domestically cataclysmic. Its certainly a damn sight more interesting than the caravan holidays I went on.