Me and My Left Ball
Tristan Bates Theatre
Reviewed – 8th January 2019
“Ryan, Rainford and Young create a wonderful, believable chemistry with each other”
Darkly funny and inventively staged, ‘Me & My Left Ball’, a new play by writer/actor Jack James Ryan, packs a real emotional punch. Its relatable characters and strong message, that we shouldn’t be afraid to be honest, open and vulnerable with each other, linger on in the mind long after the final bows.
Ryan’s script begins with a simple premise. Clueless Alfie (Ryan) lives with his mum, trapped in a seemingly endless cycle of getting drugged up and going clubbing with alpha-male mates Mike (Daniel Rainford) and Callum (Marco Young). That is, until he meets the whimsical, extraordinary Tess (Eilidh Loan) who gives his life a new direction. All this is turned on its head the moment Alfie learns he has testicular cancer. As his friends and new girlfriend learn to deal with the news in various different ways, it’s up to Alfie to decide how life can go on once it’s altered beyond his comprehension.
The strong ensemble deal with the highly emotional aspects of the show with aplomb. In a short space of time, Ryan, Rainford and Young create a wonderful, believable chemistry with each other, and the length and strength of their friendship is on show from the beginning. To pick a stand-out performance is tricky, but Rainford embodies the duality of being a hyper-masculine man and vulnerable, confused boy beautifully. Loan provides a much-needed breath of fresh feminine air to proceedings and plays the self-aware, flawed girl of Alfie’s dreams expertly.
Natasha Ravenscroft’s direction keeps the ensemble mobile and makes good use of minimal props. Just two white crates serve as bed, hilltop and everything in between. I’ve also never seen toilet roll utilised in such a hilariously inventive way before. After an initial verbal battle with ‘Alexa’, music ends up playing a key role in this piece. From jiving in the club to an emotional self-penned song at the end, music adds to both the weight of scenes and our understanding of the characters. Jodie Sully as movement director has created an excellent array of sequences that move from funny (the boys have a variety of club-based dance moves) to profound (the carrying of a reluctant Alfie into his wheelchair), and the cast prove to be strong and capable movers.
This is promising stuff from Ryan and his group. It’s a short script that could easily contain more, and the ending, with all its resolution, feels a bit too easily achieved. “I would have understood if you’d just told me” feels like the mantra of the play and is an important way of viewing how we communicate with the people we love. Ryan’s script is truly inspiring in that sense. Inventive, well-choreographed and wonderfully acted, ‘Me & My Left Ball’ comes highly recommended.
Reviewed by Joseph Prestwich
Photography by Tom Grace Portraits
Me & My Left Ball
Tristan Bates Theatre until 10th January
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue: