Shimmer, theSpace @ Surgeons Hall, Review

Shimmer by No Frills
Rating (out of 5)
Show info
No Frills Theatre
John O’Keefe (writer) (other credits requested)
Max Campbell.
Running time

This story is true. Most of it. It was the end of a long bad time.  The fall of 1956.  In the heartland of America, Tama County Juvenile Home, Iowa.

The story is told by John, looking back on himself as a fifteen-year-old who has found himself in a succession of institutions, homes for kids from broken homes, most of whom haven’t even broken the law.

Tama is both the worst and the best, best because it was the last and here he meets Gary Welch, an ally in imaginative flight, and they discovered Shimmer.  Shimmer starts as a barely there secret language, perceived like radio static, to get around the strict no talking rules at dinner.  It will evolve to be a mystic home-grown philosophy where in moments of revelation things just feel subconsciously right.

This is a stripped-down version of O’Keefe’s partly autobiographical monologue, channelling the other boys as they scrap for a place in the pecking order and the harsh ham-fisted supervisors as they keep them in place.  Quick changes between characters and the short, Beat-era clipped phrasing capture the chaotic emotions of caged youth.

As the months roll by, the pair fight, bond and both fearfully and gleefully hatch a plan to break for freedom.

Campbell does well to define each character while lithely rushing around the stage evoking the emotional sense of growing up afraid, but the tension is a little uneven and he doesn’t fully inhabit the piece.

A well performed piece of unpretentious performance art but it lacks that intangible Shimmer.


Show Times: 8 - 12th August 2023 at 7.05pm.

Tickets: £10 (£8).

Suitability: 12+ (contains strong language / swearing).