A collection of toys live a meager existence on a dusty shelf, forgotten and ignored by the children who used to love them. With personalities created by the stories their owners devised for them, the figurines try to come to terms with their fate: re-enacting and clinging to their tales, whist the precipice of the shelf’s edge constantly calls as a final means of escape.
The Hand-Me-Down People is a poignant and well-acted piece of new writing by Nottingham University’s The New Theatre. Amidst a set of oversized matchboxes and dead flies, the young cast successfully evoke the downbeat mood of inevitable change. Monster tries his best to keep spirits up, but the rest of the collection – including the newly-arrived Doll – are more accepting of the fact the golden days will never return, especially the physically and mentally scarred Hero.
Writing is strong and multi-layered. A music box playing a never-changing selecion of tunes not only frustrates her fellow shelf-dwellers, but underscores the limbo they find themselves in. And the arrival of Doll changes the group’s dynamic, but also allows the piece to lay out its exposition without clumsiness.
At its core, The Hand-Me-Down People is not – as you might expect – a rumination on the end of childhood. Instead it is an insightful and compelling piece which quietly raises the question of what makes us real – the interactions we have with each other, the memories we cling to, or the heroism to face a future which we have no power to control.
The Hand-Me-Down People is at C nova until 27 August at 1625. Ticket information is available on the Fringe website.