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Freddy Dare and the Ginger Robber review at The Bike Shed Theatre Exeter

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Mystery pervades as Jake Swindall’s beautifully crafted film engages from the start. A single car travels down a remote woodland road. Emerging, the driver walks towards the doors of an old shed as in real time Freddy Dare enters the stage. Designer Sophie Mosberger fills the stage with diverse memorabilia, from dressmaker’s dummy to record player, each significant to Freddy’s childhood.

Intricately weaving film throughout the story enables writer and director Jon Welch to people this two-hander with additional characters. A compelling and fascinating tale, its themes include grief, anxiety and depression.

At school, Freddy – 11 years and 59 days old, short for his age and asthmatic – is derided by fellow pupils. Recently widowed, his mother seeks consolation in alcohol. Left alone, friendless, and seen as a loser, Freddy immerses himself in a fantasy world created around his electronic game.

Benjamin Symes is a credible Freddy, his controlled, frequently expressionless face and nuanced verbal delivery, whether halting or staccato, moving seamlessly from introvert to superhuman alter ego and finally into adulthood.

There is a fine rapport with Nix Wood’s beautifully observed Ginny Roberts – a high achiever who, failing parental expectations, seeks attention through rebellious behaviour. With cutting, fast-paced dialogue, Ginny’s barbs hit their mark.

Rhythmic, insistent music takes the story towards a mysterious and magical conclusion. Gothic-edged and melodramatic, the Ginger Robber foretells of a full moon, spooky black crows and a tattered dance frock, insisting the characters will dance or die. As the minutes tick by, Freddy must win every mission to succeed.

Production Information

The Bike Shed Theatre, Exeter, February 19-March 7, then touring until June 22

Author and director
Jon Welch
Cube Essential Theatre and the Bike Shed Theatre
Benjamin Symes, Nix Wood
Running time
1hr 30mins

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