Keep on Walking Federico

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

Neil Cooper


WHEN Mark Lockyer’s entire world collapses in on him, an unexpected letter packs him off to sunny Spain with the full approval of his therapist. Far from the package-tour getaway he might have expected, Lockyer is forced to square up to his personal demons while stepping into another world entirely. As he whiles away his days at Pepe’s café, small-town dramas are played out in front of his nose in a way that sees him become accidentally complicit with them.

Flitting between conversations with his dead mother and brief encounters with a Dutch neighbour, a doctor who turns out to be the local mayor and a sad-eyed flamenco dancer called Ramona, Lockyer’s yarn is structured like a classic cuckoo-in-the-nest one-man noir. In this way, a personal quest to find himself co-exists alongside a tangle of scenarios that could have been lifted straight from the pages of a pulp thriller.

At times, Alice Malin’s production for ATC resembles a self-help take on Twin Peaks. With little more than a café table and chair and a carpet of sand to play with on Geraldine Williams’ set, layers of mystery and levity add to a complex interplay alongside some nimble-footed flamenco and a Tom Jones soundtrack. Lockyer plays a town-full of eccentrics with chameleon-like dexterity as a set of unpalatable home truths are dug up to help purge a hidden past.

Following on from his first autobiographical solo show, Living with the Lights On, Keep on Walking Federico is a play that hurls its author into a void that is more confrontation than retreat. Lockyer may be a stranger in a strange land, but it is the dreamlike oddness of his situation that helps pull him through. Most affecting are his conversations with his mother, whose revelations are made all the more shocking by the matter-of-factness in tone.

In the end, for all the everyday madness around him, in a play about loss, healing and everything that comes after, it is Lockyer who gets to walk back to life.