A fun gameshow-style play about neurodiversity and the terrible state of the UK education system, Melonade is next up on the bill for the ambitious and impressive Vault Festival taking place in the arches below Waterloo train station. It’s exactly the kind of production one expects to see at The Vaults: vibrant, loud and with just the right amount of chaos. Becks Turner takes the floor to tell her story of growing up with dyslexia, dyscalculia and dyspraxia in a poorly designed education system that simply decided she was dumb, trying to force her to focus entirely on her weaknesses and completely ignore her strengths. All this is presented against the backdrop of a gameshow in which audience members jump up on-stage to duke it out for gold stars.
Melonade is by no means shy about criticising the Conservative government and the decisions they have made over recent years. Sadder is the fact that Turner’s own experiences of being failed by the education system were presumably guided by Labour government policy and things have gotten so much worse that the fight is to first bring back those lesser failures before we can actually start to think about how to not fail children. What’s also tragic is that this conversation is happening literally underground, in the dark, and not every day on national TV.
Despite the good message, Melonade faces a few issues. Some of the “fun” is a little forced, and the crowd is expected to whoop, cheer and bring the house down from the very first second, before anything has been done to earn that. The result is that it very much feels like it’s down to the audience to make the experience fun, so seeing it on a Friday night could be very different to a Tuesday night.
Turner is a great personality on-stage but her show just needs a little bit more to get the crowd going. What she does particularly well, though, is sprinkle just enough of her story throughout all the fun parts that the audience are heavily invested by the time they’re hit with the incredibly well-written emotional monologue at the end.
Those who are willing to bring the noise, get up there and make their own fun will be in their element here. For everyone else, Melonade might feel a little contrived.
Read more reviews from our Vault Festival 2023 coverage here.
For further information about the event visit the Vault Festival website here.