Developed in collaboration with The Booth Centre Theatre Company, a performance company of actors with lived experience of homelessness, The Edge Theatre’s production of Alan Ayckbourn’s Ernie’s Incredible Illucinations delivers a sharp, funny and warmly endearing adaptation which canters through several imaginative set pieces with a flawlessly taut cast.

Running from Thu 13 – Sat 15 Jul, the reimagined play follows Ernie, an only child in an archetypal Manc family, whose vivid and sprawling daydreams have begun to manifest as sudden, absurd, often treacherous real-world situations. Whisked to the local GP by his brusque, exasperated dad and bewildered but supportive mum, Ernie recounts his ‘illucinations’ – as his parents put it – to a politely skeptical doctor. As he does so, each scenario is swiftly brought to life, beginning abruptly with a ruthless military raid on his home – which his dad assumes is the TV licence officer. Before long, Ernie’s wild imagination leads to his aunt squaring off against a prize fairground boxer, his dad saving a climber on Everest and a covert secret agent dossier exchange which goes awry in the local library. Unmoved, the doctor seems set to conclusively misdiagnose Ernie’s powers, until his parents demand a demonstration on the spot.

Led by bright, arresting performances by two professional actors, Ernie’s Incredible Illucinations is buoyed by a set of masterly turns from a supporting cast of eight actors, each with lived experience of homelessness. Trained as part of The Booth Centre’s arts initiative, the troupe bring a crackling, classically thespian energy to the stage with astonishing dramatic range; every member of the supporting cast appears as various characters throughout the story, switching effortlessly between roles with perfect timing.

Providing both the instrumental music and the sound effects for deadly mountaineering, elderly pugilism and more, a versatile live band plays on the periphery, allowing the talented performers to flow harmoniously from soaring full-cast musical numbers to boisterous, engaging pantomime, all while utilising the space – a centre circle, ringed by thin bollards of light – with impressive ingenuity.

Smart, sleek and sizzling with mischief, Ernie’s Incredible Illucinations is one of two annual shows staged as part of the twelve-year collaboration between The Edge and The Booth Centre, which forms an aspect of The Edge’s enduring commitment to comprehensive inclusivity in theatre. Alongside their professional theatre provision, The Edge operates an extensive participatory theatre and arts programme which includes long-term projects with vulnerable adults and young people.

I think the activities are very important. It gives me something to do, something to leave the house for. When you’re depressed and you do things, surely that helps you! The drama brings me out of myself, especially if you are in my situation because I don’t see a lot of people, I had a flat but I had to keep myself to myself so I didn’t see anyone for long period of time. I did think of suicide. But the drama helped me. I feel accepted now. It feels like a family. I like coming to The Edge – I am accepted as me.‘ – PROJECT PARTICIPANT

For more information on The Edge’s ongoing participatory theatre work and their schedule of upcoming shows, check out their website.

A Manchester Wire Partnership post
Fri 14 Jul, The Edge Theatre,
Manchester Rd, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester, M21 9JG
, Tel: 0161 282 9776
Wolf McFarlane
Published on:
Tue 25 Jul 2023