Edinburgh Fringe 2021
Cain, Ryan and Jonjo are in Polmont, Young Offenders Institution. We begin with Jonjo waiting for the first session in a parenting class to be delivered by Grace. He is joined by Cain who is all nervous energy before Ryan enters. Cain, looking for all the world like an ADHD kid off his meds is both intimidating and nervous as Jonjo refuses at first to speak. When an alpha male in the shape of Ryan enters, Jonjo is coaxed into speaking as Ryan seems to understand the way of their world far more than Cain. From here a series of classes shows them how to work together as fathers. They begin to understand what is happening on the outside world of where their children are being born or growing up. Ryan has thoughts of becoming far more than a statistic, lays plans to get out of there and become something more than the sum of his parts until his best laid scheme goes awry.
Staring with the script, this is quite simply a classic in the making. I have known these young men in my work in the care sector and recognise each with distinction. Their accents may have been different, but their insecurities are memorable. This reminded me of how remarkable it is that they have survived to near adulthood, they resonate with authenticity throughout this.
But to have a decent script is one thing. To bring it to the stage is another. Rebecca Morgan who doubles as the director and plays Grace has played a blinder. The pace is nuanced, blocking tight, technical areas well done – though shuffling scene changes could be slicker – and the understanding of the young characters is evident throughout.
To have the script, have on board a decent director are two things, but the performances still need to be delivered. As Jonjo, William Dron is note perfect. Jonjo’s nervousness, excitement, fear and trepidation are well delivered. He needs to be the epicentre we care about and worry over as the other two have previous and should be fine. This is done with great skill. As the boy with an inability to sit still, Kieran Begley is similarly on point. The challenges he makes, attempts to court sympathy and respect are both broad strokes and subtly placed as we have some sympathy mixed up with the annoyance you can get to feel over someone who is just… annoying. As Ryan, Ryan Stoddart has a difficult task. Playing that type of character can be an easy peasy, until you realise that there are plenty of parallels to playing it. You need to dominate but share, be precise but allow flow and be able to pull off the strength whilst showing the sensitivity. Stoddart works this exceptionally well. By the time the denouement arrives, care for one had become care for three. Escaping the vortex of toxic masculinity may be his until it intercedes and destroys the hope. Of course, Morgan as Grace adds to the mix which is necessary to provide us with the catalyst for change.
Technically, aside from the clumsiness of some of the scene changes there was little to criticise, though the scenes on the flipchart sheets are a tad too difficult to see from the back.
I came away from this in fine fettle. I found myself having conversation after conversation with colleagues about the need to address young men and their fears in care work; not bad after seeing a piece of work that is set out to challenge and ask questions. But you can have the script, the director, the actors and still not have the package. This does. It kept me going back and back to consider more – what could be better?