MUDLARKS To 20 October.


by Vickie Donoghue.

Bush Theatre To 20 October 2012.
Mon-Sat 7.30pm Mat
Runs 1hr 15min No interval.

TICKETS: 020 8743 5050.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 24 September.

More mud than larks in skilful play not quite at grips with its characters.
Ironically, Vickie Donoghue’s play has washed up at the Bush after its late spring premiere at Halesworth’s High Tide Festival. Ironically, because it’s set not in Suffolk but south Essex, and very much at low tide, with the mudflats exposed.

Nor are the three teenagers here larking about, though their lives are muddy. The first two, leader of the pack Charlie and sidekick Wayne, catapult over the wall, hiding from the police, and possibly others. Someone’s after Charlie, as his response to repeated calls on his mobile show. Wayne’s carrying a woman’s handbag and there’s been some malarkey with someone’s car.

Then Jake leaps in; involved too, but he ran off a different way. It’s the story of their lives: mates at school, then Jake worked at exams. Charlie isn’t the sort to work at school, and Wayne needs someone like Charlie to follow.

Mike Noble finds the vulnerability in Wayne, with his beseeching voice and hopeful expression – arrows of pleasure misfiring through the dialogue as he seeks Charlie’s approval, showing a misty romance over the handbag owner’s name and possessions. But his vision’s limited – he links the mud to the sea and thinks Kent, across the Thames from Southsea, is actually France (hardly all his fault, it does call itself Southend-on-Sea.

It’s Jake who says there’s no way out from the mud, no way to escape detection, then does for his future in his battle with Charlie. Will Wrightson’s production is precise and fast-paced, like Donoghue’s script, which also recognises the power of implication and ambiguity: why is Jake drawn back to the other two? Where does Charlie disappear to for part of the action? She’s also keenly aware of the self-inflicted damage her characters bring about.

Scott Hazell captures the confusion in Jake, while James Marchant’s Charlie is a smart-looking negative force. Yet they remain – Wayne possibly excepted – an outsider’s view of three such people, intense in what’s shown but without the haphazardness of life or waywardness of mind. In the end, the play’s bounded by its single vision of its characters.

Jake: Scott Hazell.
Charlie: James Marchant.
Wayne: Mike Noble.

Director: Will Wrightson.
Designer: Amy Cook.
Lighting: Will Evans.
Sound/Composer: Richard Hammarton.
Voice coach: John Tucker.
Movement: Polly Bennett.
Fight director: Paul Benzing.
Assistant director: George Ransley.

2012-09-25 14:07:26

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