Edinburgh Fringe 2012
A fizzing Liverpudlian coming-of-age drama. Brilliantly written and performed.
What a performance – what a great little play! Not so little: this play has an important general application. The first statement uttered by Greg the Protagonist of this dense and quick-fire piece goes “He just doesn’t get it!” and that sums it all up. Unless I am reading more into Bottleneck than was intended ( but I don’t think I am) then the Antogonist , unseen on stage, is those in the audience and in wider British society who would only see this clever hour as a mere pen-picture of everyone’s idea of a typical Liverpudlian troublesome Youff.
Sharing in the views of Greg’s unseen Father, it is the Great and the Good in sad Britain who cannot see (or do not wish to see) the connection between cause and effect, between Greg’s anti-social, uneducated attitude, and The Boot estate and small B boot culture in which he has been allowed by Society to be reared. that is the cause, not some inherent character fault in the young of Greg’s generation. We the great and the good and the do nothing are hugely to blame.
James Cooney’s performance is of a piece to match Luke Barnes’ terrific play. Speed of thought, subtlety, clarity, imagination and energy (not to mention endurance!) are the hall marks of this young actor’s work. Cooney is riveting. He puts across a thoroughly troublesome type society can do without, with huge charm, likeableness and we can even laugh at his anti-social antics: of course because this is on stage, a safe distance and an eon removed from the very same character who, if we met him in the street….we’d rather we hadn’t. At a deep level our sympathy must go out to this generation of Liverpudlian young (and his type throughout our ‘green and pleasant land’) that is if we have any heart or conscience at all. Barnes’ pen-picture is a brilliant one; it is a throwing down of the glove of shame in the face of those in our society who have been in a position for two generations at least to do something about the disgrace of a society into which it can allow the Gregs of our rich Country to be born.
Luke Barnes ’play is in no way didactic: it is not a tedious political manifesto of promises to be broken, high-flown sentiments to be quickly forgotten; brilliantly Barnes paints the picture and allows us to draw our own conclusions. As I have already said, I may be exaggerating the conclusion, but I don’t think so. Quite near the end, with action and without words, the link, against the background Barnes has already painted for us, is ready to be made between football, rock music and anti-social behaviour; the background we have discovered and not had thrown in our face like Media hype. Barnes’ manifesto is simply Greg’s story: it is everything we have seen and heard so far: the uncivilised environment of The Boot, the lack of education, education, education and the shocking waste of talent and consequent total lack of opportunity in such a large section of our society to self-improve or contribute meaningfully towards the greater good of the greatest number.
I laughed, I wept inwardly for Greg, and I left the theatre an even more convinced Revolutionary than before. We should surely all of us want to change British society radically if it is one that can so smugly allow the Greg’s of Bottleneck to be born. The writing lifts the play out of the confines of the Pleasance Attic and is complemented by acting that grips, cajoles, entertains and convinces.