Electrolyte – Wildcard Theatre Company
An Edinburgh Fringe Festival show review
Quality of Performance:
‘Electrolyte’ blew my socks off and then used them to wipe my tears.
Jessie and her friends are stuck in a depressing routine of drink, drugs, and loud music, and it is starting to frustrate her. Then, when two of the group start planning a wedding, and another moves to a different country, she is eager to orchestrate her own change of plans and reconfigure her perspective on things. When the spinning of her world is suddenly stopped by a chance meeting with a local singer, Jessie seizes the opportunity to head to London in search of a better lifestyle, and her estranged mother. However, not all is as it seems, and Jessie’s world warps around her to the sound of thumping bass guitars and sinister secrets.
The portrayal of mental illness in ‘Electrolyte’ is thankfully never sentimentalised, romanticised, or dumbed-down, but is instead raw and harrowing. The process of recovery and the dawning dread of relapse worries is, without delving too much into personal experience, accurately represented. It is strangely comforting to have found a show that doesn’t shy away from the realities of mental illness, but simultaneously does not over-indulge in its horrors. Additionally, it seems to be implied that Jessie is bisexual (or at least interested in women), however it is unclear if her appreciation for Allie is idolising or a crush.
This show is performed entirely through live music and spoken word and singing. There is a saxophone, synth, drums, electric violin, acoustic and electric guitars; you name it and this amazingly talented cast can play it. The effect is both cacophonic and cathartic, and perfectly captures the restless, reckless attitude of its central character. It is energetic and haunting all at once – where can I buy this album?!
The whole cast are incredible, creating an ensemble that is able to share the spotlight and also happily give it up to individuals to celebrate their work. Olivia Sweeney is phenomenal as Jessie, managing to embody a relentless, chaotic girl whose vulnerability and relatable moments of insecurity clearly ripple underneath.
At its wildly beating heart, ‘Electrolyte’ is a surprising story of the tricks that our minds can play on ourselves when we try to suffocate the inevitable pain and struggle that daily life, or shocking events, can spring on us. Eventually, it is impossible to drown out the noise, however this show maintains that help and health are always on the horizon.