Here we go again. Another school drama about bullying, complete with do-gooders and social misfits and a storyline that has been done countless times before – a classic GCSE piece. Except it’s not. That is just what writer/director Dave Jackson wants us to think in the opening scenes of Hungry Wolf Visionary Youth Theatre’s
Each character has a fair share of one-liners or dumb responses which are delivered with spot-on timing.
Charley and Will have set up a school mentoring and counselling scheme and are scouting for helpers. With some misgivings Daniel, Dawn and Jordan all decide to join in bringing their own issues with them, despite being on the listening side. Daniel has privilege and brains; Dawn is privileged but dizzy or perhaps technically bipolar; Jordan doesn’t know what he is most of time thanks to the drugs he deals, and Will is gay with a mother for whom that’s a problem and father he doesn’t dare tell. Charley is just Charley. Over the course of the play they all reveal personal stories of victimisation and abuse at the hands of Ali.
There is a lot of witty humour in this play which lightens its otherwise dark subject and expressions of verbal abuse and cruelty. It also makes the point that jokes are often at the expense of other people and can in themselves be acts of bullying. While Ali is clearly guilty of vile deeds, the denouement begs the question of whether his treatment by the others is justice or an act of collective bullying in itself. Each character has a fair share of one-liners or dumb responses which are delivered with spot-on timing.
Harvey Cole creates an emotional and convincingly complex character as Ali. Declan Mason avoids the pitfall of overacting Jordan’s permanently stoned condition in a tightly controlled and appropriately restrained performance. Similarly, despite his opening song routine, Mark Tims’ soulful portrayal of Will resists the temptation of turning him into a mincing queen. Elliott Martin looks and sounds like a young man from a classy background and eloquently delivers the high-brow lines of Daniel. Lucy Alexander keeps Dawn innocently one step behind the action and her deadpan, naive delivery creates some of the funniest moments. Laurel Waghorn as Charley lends an air of practicality and common sense to the unfolding drama, keeping the events under control; all play a key part.
There are predictable moments in this story, but many more surprises. The structural device of starting with the classic situation comedy before launching into more exciting stuff makes for something of a slow start, but the production soon picks up pace and the cast members warm to their roles. A Little Respect is an imaginative piece of new writing that successfully tackles bullying from a different angle and makes for enjoyable thought-provoking theatre.