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Big Foot review at Stratford Circus Arts Centre, London – ‘gentle yet persuasive’

Joseph Barnes Phillips. Photo: Camilla Greenwell Joseph Barnes Phillips. Photo: Camilla Greenwell
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Beneath the bold, humorous theatrical style of Joseph Barnes Phillips’ new play Big Foot is a simple, semi-autobiographical rites of passage tale. Rayleigh is trying to do right in life and not make the same mistakes as his father.

He is a carer to his mother Moon Gazer, who encourages him off the bad streets of Anerley and into church but it’s here that he falls in love with Spice Girl. Before long she is pregnant and Rayleigh is desperate to be a good father but Spice Girl is far more realistic and Moon Gazer’s health is failing.

There is a distinct warmth to Phillips’ performance, which begins the moment the audience walk in. Dressed as Moon Gazer, dancing to the beat of the Mighty Sparrow and surrounded by colourful soft toys, his banter is comic, familiar and homely, playfully distinguishing the differences between the Guyanese and Trinidadians.

He soon slips out of this guise however to introduce us to fast-talking Rayleigh. Phillips draws us into Rayleigh’s life and the things that are important to him, most poignantly his co-dependent relationship with a mother who’s ill but invariably knows best.

Nik Corrall’s set design is a distinct nod to the nursery that Rayleigh has barely vacated, while Andy Grange’s sympathetic lighting helps ease the passage of time within the narrative.

Thoughtfully constructed but with a confused and vaguely unsatisfying conclusion, the author however tackles issues of masculinity in a fresh and entertaining manner.

Big Foot’s bittersweet story features flashes of music, folk stories, grime and prose, and despite Phillip’s larger than life personality stamped across the stage, there is a gentle yet persuasive message about the responsibilities of becoming a man.

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Cyclical family drama played out in a bold theatrical style