Play for teenagers exerts a certain painful fascination
This article is from 2012.
At first glimpse Simon Stephens’ ‘play for young people’ seems to take place in the same universe as an episode of Hollyoaks. Stephanie (Scarlet Billham) and her friends at sixth-form college hang out and have breathless discussions about sex, clothes, hairstyles and gadgets. There’s a shrillness in these interactions that fuels a creeping sense of unease, underscored by Hyemi Shin’s jarring set of wires, garage lighting and plastic sheeting and culminating in a brutal and seemingly senseless murder.
While uncomfortable viewing, Sean Holmes’ production has a certain painful fascination. The emotionless, knowing eloquence of Stephens’ teenaged characters – whether admiring a friend’s trainers or smashing someone’s skull in – is all the more disturbing because the ensemble of young actors give such perky, naturalistic performances. In the end, though, Stephens’ piece is rather undone by its lack of a clear message. While a case could be made for the play as a comment on the demonisation of the young as amoral, wanton destroyers the absence of redeeming humanity leaves the whole scenario looking rather gratuitous.
Traverse Theatre, 228 1404, until 19 Aug, times vary, £18–£20 (£13–£15).