Dave has passed on a love of Rod Stewart to son David, but they don’t share a genetic link or even the same skin colour. Does this matter? Taking inspiration from his dad’s story, writer and performer David Judge explores family connections and personal identity in his new play Sparkplug.
Judge’s monologue is a patchwork of interlinked anecdotes covering defining moments in his father’s life. Chronology is carefully manipulated so that the complexity of Dave’s circumstances and personality can be fully appreciated. Mother Joanne remains a shadowy figure whose motivations are less easy to discern.
Movement through the 1980s and 1990s is signalled by the changing soundtrack and by switching number plates on the car frame that takes centre stage in Home’s auditorium. Under Hannah Tyrrell-Pinder’s direction, Judge uses movement in, out and on top of the frame to give visual shape to the monologue, preventing the action from becoming too static.
Judge’s background as a spoken word artist is evident in the poetic cadences of some passages while other moments utilise his talents for accents and mimicry as he channels his “old-school, proud” Irish grandmother and portrays his bullies’ cruel taunts. Though pace sometimes dips, momentum picks up towards the end as the authentic strength of feeling behind the play’s construction comes to the fore.
Judge lovingly interweaves his home city of Manchester into the personal narrative with bittersweet comic effect. Let’s hope other cities will be as receptive to Judge’s story when Sparkplug embarks on its national tour.