Edinburgh Fringe 2019
A play about growing up. A rare combination of great writing and directing backed up with acting of the highest class.
Peter, Andy, Linda and Sue are pals and have been since they can ever remember. Playing together, forever in and out of each other’s homes, they grow up over the course of this sixty minutes of powerful, pithy and poignant theatre, from chatterbox primary school kids into teens on the cusp of adulthood.
This four-hander, written and superbly directed by Nick Hennegan is set in Birmingham and begins smack in the middle of the baby boomer period, running through to the point when punk was just beginning to grab our attention. Like a lot of really good writing, what we see is based on Hennegan’s personal experiences and the nodding heads and murmured conversation of the exiting audience told you that many who watched this superbly acted piece of theatre identified with the many and varied issues it addressed – those of friendship, loyalty, choices, ambition and actually understanding who you really are and what you stand for.
The high energy of pre-teens morphs into the awkward, gawky teen years as the quartet starts to break apart, driven in no small part by the education system which, at that time, split you off aged 11 and a bit into the “haves” and have nots”. The former ended up running the country, the latter keeping the lights on.
But as the foursome develop, so things take on a darker, less rosy hue. And the denouement hits us right in the heart – beautifully scripted, sympathetically acted, leaving the audience in complete and utter silence.
The set of four white wooden chairs is deceptively simple, given the intricate manner in which they are deployed by the cast. Costuming is similarly stark, with the one on-stage change (to indicate the switch from primary to secondary education) being cleverly choreographed to avoid any break in the flow.
Someone has also had great fun with the sound segues – it was like a trip down memory lane listening to each snatch of music which, without fail, helped signpost the next stage in the development of the relationships of our quartet.
But it’s the acting that catches the eye. There’s an obvious on-stage chemistry and Phillip John Jones (Pete), Andrew Greaves (Andy), Amy Anderson (Linda) and Kizzy Dunn (Sue) are as universally excellent in their core roles as they are in the many and varied other characters they flip between over the course of the play. Accents are perfect, as is the ageing (they play roles aged from 11 to 50 plus) and you know in an instant just who they are representing. And the tricky issue of how to handle the multitude of props that might be required in a show like this was dealt with by having the four actors mime (with great conviction) everything from eating their dinner to reading the paper to…..well, let’s not go there shall we?
As someone said to me on the way out, “that was deep”. Yes, it was. And all the better for it. A rare combination of great writing and directing backed up with acting of the highest class. This is clearly a theatre company with a great deal to offer. Others agree – they’ve just got a month’s run in London on the back of their efforts up here. Catch this if you can up here though. Highly recommended.