THE SPACE ON THE MILE@THE RADISSON (VENUE 39) Five Stars
THE Brackenberg siblings have it all; a loving family, terrific imaginations and a childhood that anyone who has grown up with brothers or sisters and enjoyed performing home-made songs, making up extravagant dance routines, and stuffing their face with cake will relate to. Freya, aged seven and three-quarters, and ten-year-old twins Finnley and Sophia, have an idyllically ramshackle upbringing, looked after by their loving middle-class parents, who have their own sense of quirky liberal-minded fun.
Set somewhere between the late 1970 and 80s, this is an incredibly inviting show that will have you thinking "I want to be in this family!" But when the Brackenberg parents die in a car crash, this world falls apart. The reality of the children's orphaned situation feels like a knife plunging into your chest. It is difficult to imagine another piece in which you feel so strongly for the death of two characters, after knowing them so briefly.
Conveyed through an imaginative use of household objects and underpinned by nostalgia for a bygone age, the story shifts between invigorating moments of high-energy humour and heart-wrenching tragedy. It's a heady combination that sets the soul alight.
Particularly memorable is the "Brackenberg Battenberg Theatre", where the children relive memories of their time with their parents using large and mini Battenburg cakes to represent family members. It's silly, childish and incredibly sad.
It's a surprise to learn that the story is entirely fictional, devised by the cast (Shamira Turner, Clare Beresford and Dom Conway) and director (Alex Scott), as it feels like such an incredibly truthful portrayal of a child's view of death. The performers have a terrific dynamic (in this performance, Scott played Finnley), leaving you wondering whether they might not be related in real life.
A final scene, in which we share Freya's eighth birthday, beautifully epitomises the contrasts of childish joy and grown-up sadness that make up the piece as a whole. While there are worse places to deal with choked-back tears than the luxurious Radisson's bathrooms, it might be an idea to bring tissues, as this is a sincere and moving show.
Until 23 August. Today noon