Manchester’s Finest on A Strange New Space

A Strange New Space at Circomedia April 2017. Paul Blakemore photography. Manchesters Finest reviews A Strange New Space at The Waterside Arts Centre, Sale in July 2017. 

A Strange New Space is a highly entertaining, one-woman show at Sale’s Waterside Arts Centre that provides an excellent introduction to theatre for younger children. Tessa Bide takes us on a fantasy voyage of the imagination while simultaneously conveying the sadness and solitude of the child refugee, Amira, as she makes a parallel journey away from home into the bewilderment of a refugee centre.

Tessa has personal knowledge of the harrowing stories of child refugees from her experience working at several charities, camps and squats in Athens and she has plans to tour this production in Greece and other countries affected by the refugee crisis. Tessa’s intimate knowledge of child refugees is revealed in her lively and moving narrative that is at times sad but never sentimental thanks to the plucky and likeable Amira at the centre of the story.

It is extraordinary how Bide creates such a wide variety of environments through her expert use of mime and physical theatre; brilliantly complemented by the subtle use of lighting, sound effects and well-imagined original music. Amira takes us with her on rockets, through space and into gloomy caves in this highly polished and professional production, with excellent transitions between the inner world of the child and her attempts to adjust to and escape from her outer reality.

Bide is to be applauded for her pacing; for example, after a somewhat extended depiction of the child being processed in the refugee centre, she swiftly transitions into an entertaining puppet show with audience interaction. There are many tragic and joyous moments that are highly relatable for both the young and adult audience. As a wonderful actress, Tessa Bide has a rare talent for accessing the inner vision of a child in such a natural way, and A Strange New Space is a poignant reminder of how much we lose in terms of imagination when we ‘grow up’.