Brighton Fringe 2013
Fast, witty and furious two-hander – a big Friday night out seen through the eyes of one girl and one boy.
Of the two characters in Chapel Street Kirsty is the one who aspires to go to university, Joe doesn’t aspire to anything much except getting trashed on a Friday night, and maybe getting lucky for a quick shag , but he has dreams of what might be. Both the characters narrate alternately, standing, or sitting, on the green beer crates that are the sole props. It makes for a very immediate experience, there’s no distraction from the staging, and the narratives they tell are compelling in themselves. Both actors are completely absorbed in their stories, completely believable.
It’s a rare skill to take a character like Joe who could be, no is, a hopelessly lost chav, and despite his crass take on the world, keep audience sympathy with him. When he searches for the right shirt to go out in, rejects the “BAD” t-shirt as too chavvy, but puts on another with such delight, with a murmur of satisfaction, “Fred Perry”, that’s just right”, you know he is shallow and ignorant, but throughout the performance he hints at things he’d like to do or be. That’s the difference though between aspiration and dreams – one’s about doing something and moving on, one’s about waiting for that Lottery number to come up.
Kirsty, too, is a rounded character but although you may have aspirations, you’re still a product of where you started out, and she knows this. At one point, she says “I’m proud of where I come from but I don’t want to stay here.” It’s a great line. The build up to the night out, everyone getting well pissed before going clubbing, as it’s far too expensive to buy loads of drinks in pubs and clubs, is accurately and entertainingly portrayed, and the writing weaves both the story of their preparations and important aspects of their lives together in a very natural way. This may be the story of two people from a background that confines and limits them, but they are both full and complex characters.
It handles wider themes of sexuality and conflict lightly, but intelligently. When Joe wonders about his life, that he’s done nothing, he tells about his mate, well he’s been out to war, he’s done something – but there’s a hint here that maybe that wasn’t all it was cracked up to be, and the army forms the sad limit of the horizons of escape from Joe’s rather limited existence.
It was such an involving and intelligent play it seems churlish to mention that the actors could have paced it a little slower. When the focus changes so very quickly from one character to another sometimes you don’t have time to take in what was being said – but that’s a very minor point, and it was a first night.
One of the strengths of the play is this contrast between Kirsty’s and Joe’s perceptions of the downbeat town in which they live. The comedy of this becomes laugh-out-loud funny when they actually meet, and it appears totally natural to hear both the characters telling us what they feel, direct to the audience, as well as speaking to one another. As I think back on it, I have clear memories of the details of different scenarios, the way in which Kirsty and Joe finally meet – it is a very memorable play, a real must-see if you can.