Byteback's explosive new Edinburgh Fringe Festival play is a bold success

The cast of Byteback Theatre's original new play Chasing Aces, which explores the impact of childhood trauma.
The cast of Byteback Theatre's original new play Chasing Aces, which explores the impact of childhood trauma.
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Byteback Theatre returns for its eighth year with an explosive new play exploring the heart-breaking impact of childhood trauma.

Burnley Youth Theatre’s professional arm can always be relied upon to deliver a raw and daring production that tackles challenging and hard-hitting topics.

And its latest Edinburgh Fringe Festival offering, Chasing Aces, is no different.

The piece isn’t as controversial as last year’s Kill the Boy, a potent tale about a white youth who goes on to commit extreme violence, killing six people.

But just like its predecessors, Chasing Aces is bursting at the seams with heart-thumping music, contemporary storytelling and gorgeous physical theatre.

Always elegantly woven into Byteback shows, physical theatre is used by the theatre group to allow audience members to experience complex or mysterious feelings that are difficult to put into words.

It essentially gives them more space to climb into a character’s shoes.

Chasing Aces uses this technique powerfully to portray illnesses like anxiety and depression resulting from childhood abuse or abandonment, both of which are difficult to get your head around if you have never experienced them before.

Director Louise Harney has clearly done her research into the impact of childhood trauma and has put together a show which radiates with empathy, courage and passion.

These qualities - hallmarks of a Byteback production - always make for an enthralling evening at the theatre.

Director Louise has assembled a fantastic cast to execute her ambitious vision.

Alex Wood makes for a solid Doctor John while Kayley Lonsdale is warm and amusing in her role as therapist Sam, and does a brilliant job of gluing the characters together.

Harriet Tucker is confident, funny and endearing as the self-harming Billie, who uses humour to hide her feelings of shame and worthlessness after her father abandons her.

Poppy, who faces the pain of being sexually abused by her friend’s stepfather, is performed with sensitivity by Holly Clough, while Lily Roberts plays her friend Maddie with fantastic results.

Molly Heywood gives a strong performance as Katy, the teenager blinded by both naivety and a desire for love, and the villain of the show, Eli Berry-Martland, shows off his brilliant acting chops as Leo, an abusive and neglectful father.

Anna Martin paints a strong emotional picture of Faye, who is trapped and struggling to cope with being left by her partner.

Meanwhile, Ash Greenwood gives a moving portrayal as Aaron, who struggles with anger issues after also being mistreated by his dad.

Ash, along with William Hutson, who depicts the grieving youth Harry, successfully inject some sarcastic humour into this otherwise dark and emotionally impactful tale.

Chasing Aces paints a powerful image of abuse and abandonment and it would have been interesting to also examine the long-term effects of neglect, the lesser viewed pillar of trauma.

Regardless, this was a dazzling piece that is sure to impress Edinburgh audiences when it heads to the Fringe on Sunday.