Lewis Bray presented us with a short extract of Cartoonopolis earlier in the year and since then I have been looking forward to the appearance of the longer work… I was not disappointed.
Lewis has a teenage brother Jack, who has autism and although like the rest of his family he is from the Wirral, Jack speaks with an American accent learned through his love of cartoons. He has built his own world inhabited with these characters, some familiar to us and some created through his own rich imagination.
In Cartoonopolis Jack is Mayor Bray, and he calls the tune. The central section of the play sees a battle between the forces of good and evil in his realm. Surrounding this we see the back story, experiencing Jack’s world through the experience of Lewis and the rest of the family.
What Lewis does is give his brother a voice and has us understand him the way his family do. In doing so he has created a work filled with astonishing frankness and tremendously affectionate humour. He manages to expose many of their difficulties and frustrations, often caused by the misunderstanding of others or lack of cooperation or support, but he never allows it to become protest or posturing.
We are left wanting to cross the border into Cartoonopolis with Jack, and to experience his world the way that Lewis seems to be able to do.
Lewis Bray is a tremendously talented improviser with a terrific ability to flip back and forth between numerous characters, both real and imaginary. Early on, as he first depicts his mother, he throws us an aside to the effect that she’ll kill him when she sees this, but I strongly suspect that she will find the characterisation as affectionately humorous as we do.
Cartoonopolis is written and performed by Lewis Bray, directed by Matt Rutter and Chris Tomlinson and was lit by Christina Eddowes. If, as Matt Rutter tells us, this was a scratch performance then audiences are really in for a treat when it returns in February.