Birmingham theatre experimentalists Stan’s Cafe first presented this show at the MAC in 2006 as a response to the closure of MG Rover the previous year.
Its’ revival, in a grim Budget week which has seen predictions of a return to austerity Britain, seemed like extraordinary timing. This time, the venue was itself a disused factory building which the company is using as its base for the coming year.
Based on interviews with residents in the Longbridge area, Home of the Wriggler is a tangle of stories about people whose lives were connected to the Rover plant over many years.
The stories are told looking back from some distant, post-industrial future by a group of four actors who go about the task as though themselves putting in a factory shift.
They even take a short tea break which has to pass in darkness because, in this energy-starved future, the only power available for lighting is what the actors can generate by cycling or hand-cranking.
The show is by no means as despairing as this might suggest. It is presented in a breezy, mock-casual style which is engaging but is, perhaps, the one aspect which begins to wear a little thin towards the end of its continuous 70 minutes. And the “wriggler” of the title is a baby who, though the product of an initially unwanted pregnancy, comes to be an embodiment of optimism for the future.
The first time I saw the show, I remember enjoying its anecdotal detail but being a little nonplussed by the event as a whole – which now seems strange since, on reacquaintance, the show seems extremely clear, even though I must admit that I struggled to keep track of who all the characters were.
But this reflects the fact that Stan’s Cafe has produced an extremely dense text which is a valuable document of its time and as such really ought to be published.
It is packed with many Birmingham, and specifically south-west Birmingham, references and it would be interesting to see how it plays away from the city: it is now on tour to Southampton, Bristol, London and Aberystwyth (details at www.stanscafe.co.uk).
Next month, Stan’s Cafe takes its show The Cleansing of Constance Brown and installation Of All the People in All the World to Toronto. Its’ next presentation at A E Harris will be an all-night Scalextric event to coincide with the Le Mans 24-hour race on June 13-14.