If.Destroyed.Still.True. by Jack Condon. The Hope Theatre, 267 Upper Street, Islington, London N1 to 14 May 2022. 4****. William Russell.

Jack Condon’s first play is impressive if possibly leaving one feeling one has been here before – in other words it is a young man’s play which will impress young audiences because it is about something they have experienced recently, but leave older audiences, who have been there and moved on, with that feeling of having heard it all before in other plays. It is about friendship, about how that can remain constant over the years but inevitably the friends will grow apart, one succeeds, one is left behind, one has a future the other has not. The past is common to both, but the present becomes another country and full of difficulties.
It has been well directed by Sarah Stacey and Condon as John, the boy who remains trapped in his shitty home town, Theo Ancient as James, the one who escapes to university, and Whitney Kehinde, as Charlotte, the girl he marries give deeply felt performances. The set is a bit of a problem, being a series of platforms with that peculiar mushroom at one end, as it looks frankly quite dangerous not only for the actors but the audience. the actors do fight quite a lot.
We meet John and James as jousting youth, the world is still their oyster, but then Charlotte intrudes, James goes to university, John stays behind in the dreary small town in which they have grown up going from one dead end job to the next. He crashes his car, descends into drug abuse and despair, envious of James’s escape. The friendship is still there, but in ruins leaving James all too aware that he can do nothing to help.
Condon creates a complex figure conveying that beneath that surface yobbishness, the beer drinking, the drugs is someone who knows what he is doing is wrong but cannot escape from doing it, while Ancient manages to be just as torn by having escaped, by being unable to return to the past, to help.
Stars are always a problem, but for its promise alone this one deserves four – not everything works, the relationship with Charlotte, the intruder who damages the bond between the two boys, is never quite defined but that said it is a debut worth having seen. Hopefully Condon will go on to write more plays.
James: Theo Ancient.
John: Jack Condon.
Charlotte: Whitney Kehinde.

Director: Sarah Stacey.
Set & Costumes: Anna Kelsey.
Lighting Designer: Gabriel Finn.
Composer & Sound Designer: Joseff Harris.
Fight Director: Bret Young.
Production Photographs: Rebecca Lyle.

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