If ever there were a production which vociferously defends the ability of young people to make theatre with the impact of a professional standard (whatever that actually means) this is it. The large cast of teenage actors in
Crucial to the success of this piece is the tight performance of the cast.
What is more, the subject matter dealt with in this self-defined ‘shocking exposure’ of modern-day adolescence is not straightforward. Fearlessly the cast confront loneliness, pornography, homophobia, self-harm, lad culture, suicide, teenage pregnancy and the minefield of online communications – though not necessarily in that order.
These subjects are not interrogated in great detail but they each make up a pastiche of complexities which together form a worryingly accurate portrayal of growing up in 2015. To some, what is shown onstage will be shocking, but it never feels as though the difficulties faced are being over exaggerated or that what we are presented with is anything but the truth.
Crucial to the success of this piece is the tight performance of the cast. Dressed in school uniforms (including black and red ties, the colours of which symbolically dominate the piece) the individual performers willingly relegate themselves to the role of being one of the group in order to focus the spotlight on whoever may be revealing their particular story at the time. The ensemble movements are tightly rehearsed and demonstrated with excellent timing. We are always able to discern elements of individuality within each character; this is made clear from the outset where each one reveals a particular difficulty they have had to face.
In this particular performance, the energy dipped slightly during the middle section where some longer scenes follow one after the next. These are in stark contrast to briefer moments such as a simply beautiful and heart-rending physical sequence in which a particularly emotive narrative thread reaches its peak.
Amidst an all-round impressive group of young performers, there are some stand-out performances. Dan Badrick playing Oakley perfectly communicates, through subtle, nuanced expressions and good comic timing, the difficulty faced by many school-aged boys of having to suppress their emotional side to fit in as ‘one of the lads’. There is also Tess Hodgson Sakamoto as the elective mute ‘M’ who manages to evoke a sense of desperate sorrow without saying a word.
The few adult characters presented lack the complete believability of the younger ones but this is understandable as those actors are performing beyond their experience. If you think that you can handle what our younger ones go through on a daily basis then I heartily recommend this piece to you. I’m sure it won’t be the last time that we see these talented performers either!