Review: Imaginary Friends at Alphabetti Theatre

Review: Imaginary Friends at Alphabetti Theatre

Imaginary Friends

Alphabetti Theatre, Newcastle upon Tyne

20th March 2024

As you all know, I love going to Alphabetti Theatre because there is always a very warm welcome to be had by anyone who pops into this innovative arts and culture venue with bar and all manner of special events including but not limited to creative writing courses, karaoke with a difference and stand up comedy nights. 

Tonight, however, it was the press night for Imaginary Friends by Daniel Bye which opened on its world premiere at Alphabetti last night. This production is presented by writer, performer Daniel Bye, ARC Stockton and Alphabetti Theatre and it sounded fascinating from the pre show write up and  promotional material I read before I arrived. This reads ‘After a tragic event, a floundering TV comic finds comfort in his imaginary friends. Not the nice sort, like you had when you were a kid. These are terrible people, and he knows it.’

I have long since determined with anything that I see at Alphabetti Theatre, I will go into with an open mind because I can say, hand on heart, that I have never seen anything here that I have not thoroughly enjoyed or, more importantly, hasn’t challenged me and tonight was no exception. 

Those of you who read my reviews regularly will know that I am always particularly impressed when what I see is very different from my expectations from the promotional material, and impress me Daniel Bye certainly did. I got the impression from the very start that this was a deeply personal piece of writing and the pathos, drama, humour and, above all, humanity of the play brought laughs from the audience as much as a chance to really reflect on how we see ourselves as either essentially good, or, when it comes down to it, a not very nice person – and even that is not as clear cut as we may imagine. 

I talked to a couple of people after the performance and I said that this review may be a little difficult to write, not because there is not enough to write about but because the heart and soul of the piece is in not knowing before you arrive and allowing the thoughts to take the viewer no matter how uncomfortable they may make one feel as we journey with Daniel on his voyage of loss, despair, fortune and realisation. I would hate to be accused of spoilers and for this reason, I will be deliberately vague in a lot of my descriptions of the piece. 

This is a one man show written and performed by Daniel Bye and his reflections, some of which may or may not be slightly embellished for dramatic and comedic purposes. It is intelligently and eloquently pitched with a mixture of regret, bombastic realism, peppered with a seasoning of humour throughout. His character lays himself bare and allows the audience to make their own mind up about a number of things including his own morality. This play does not hold back on some deep and meaningfuls such as topical political hot potatoes, suicide, toxic masculinity, societal violence and nonchalance about the suffering of minorities, artificial intelligence, and global Armageddon – which may be caused by the writer himself through his actions.

At this point, I will usually talk about the set. I cannot in this case because there is not one. This, however, adds to the sense of openness that the writer and performer is presenting. The audience is invited into his world, as uncomfortable as that world may be. The lighting design and technical co-ordination is provided by Alphabetti’s resident techie extraordinaire, and appropriately named Chris Foley, who has done a marvellous job in challenging the senses with some stark lighting states alongside full snap and glaring washes which add to the growing unease of the narrative.

The soundscape is also very effective at jolting the mood, including, this evening an unintentional reversing van sound which Mr Bye reacted to effortlessly and comedically even if it did uncouple his already erratic train of thought for a brief moment. Turn your phones to silent, at least, folks!

This is a darkly humorous voyage into some very interesting places and probably leaves you with more questions than answers which is, I would suggest, exactly where the very talented writer and performer wants to take you. It will certainly leave you with some new thoughts about much wider issues about the planet and humanity’s place – for good or for bad – in it.

Imaginary Friends by Daniel Bye plays at Alphabetti Theatre until Saturday 6th April and I cannot recommend it more highly.

Discover more from Home

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading