by Philip Osment
Tour to 28 March 2013.
Runs 1hr 30min + discussion No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 1 March at Octagon Theatre Bolton.
Drama complete and whole.
From a company called 20 Stories High comes a piece that could be praised to the skies. Admirably suited to a teenage (13+) and young adult audience, it’s a drama that looks at issues while creating satisfying characters and an intriguing story. It employs a variety of – sometimes surprising – dramatic strategies which involve the audience, from the opening where the company introduces themselves as real characters – except for one; the missing friend who is played by someone acknowledged to be an actor.
And as the story of the four characters’ adventures unfolds, influenced by emerging sexuality, the cast express their history with an involvement which precludes sentiment but instils sympathy for each of their points of view. So it’s unsurprising to learn young people were the origin of much of the dialogue, though story and characters are invented. Two communities of young Liverpool people influenced the show, the largely secular Merseyside-born and the committed Christian African-born, giving religion a focus within the piece that allows a rare non-judgmental expression of both religious and non-religious views.
Both the writing and production avoid any sensationalism; involvement comes from the detail and honesty of expressions and responses. As the missing Holly’s likely fate becomes apparent, the seriousness it brings is rooted in her friends’ continued concern for her, which Philip Osment’s script expresses tavtfully and economically, in ways the play’s intended audiences will find b elievable and strong.
Performed with vigour but also thoughtfulness, with flashes of humour and music, the audience’s involvement is repeatedly mirrored by the concerns of the trio looking out for their friend. Julia Samuels’ production paces the story beautifully, while the four actors’ contrasting characters present both variety and individuality as well as a sense of common purpose and friendship.
Designer Anna-Marie Hainsworth presents a sloping platform suggesting the group, from which individuals step at moments of separation. Keith Saha, and a number of other musical contributors, contribute to an emotional engagement that’s can add to viewers’ interest in the post-show discussion between actors and audience.
Whole merges the strengths of Theatre in Education and solidly-built, well-constructed drama.
Chantal: Annabel Annan-Jonathan.
Dylan: Jacob Beswick.
Joseph: Joseph Adelakun.
Holly/Nathalie: Grace Willis.
Director: Julia Samuels.
Designer: Anna-Marie Hainsworth.
Lighting: Douglas Kuhrt.
Composer/Musical Director: Keith Saha.
Dramaturg: Lin Coghlan.
6 Mar 4.30pm & 7pm Half Moon Theatre Lon don 020 7709 8900 www.halfmoon.org.uk
8 Mar 7.30pm The Garage Norwich 0160 363 0000 www.thegarage.org.uk
12-13 Mar 7.45pm New Wolsey Theatre Ipswich 01473 295900 www.wolseytheatre.co.uk
25 Mar 1.30pm & 7pm The Dukes Lancaster 01524 598500 www.dukes-lancaster.org
28 Mar 8pm Contact Theatre Manchester 0161 274 0600 www.contactmcr.com