“The frenetic, knockabout comedy of the second half is more effective than the stodgier and sedate first”
This new mafia musical by Michael Mott and Corey Skaggs is typical screwball stuff. All is not well on mob wife Debra Delbono’s (Ashleigh Aston) a tenth anniversary with her husband, and newly promoted mob boss, Tony. He seems ill-at-ease in his new role, flowers have arrived at the house from a mysterious woman and rumours are swirling that her psychopathic father, Vincenzo (James Edge), may have somehow wangled his way off death row. Misunderstandings and hijinks duly ensue.
The parodic mobster shtick has been done an awful lot and this show doesn’t shy away from the ‘yous guys’ and ‘cup of cowafee’ cliches. It feels overlong – well over two hours – and the plot (while intentionally ridiculous) borders on incomprehensible at times. The songs are generally solid and performed with gusto by a ten-strong cast but are not particularly memorable and will need some lyrical tweaks. The show could also be staged more imaginatively: despite the Cockpit’s generous thrust space, several scenes are bunched up at the back of the stage and the blocking feels awkward and under-rehearsed in places.
The show is at its best when it leans into its more farcical instincts. The frenetic, knockabout comedy of the second half is more effective than the stodgier and sedate first. Some running jokes are mined effectively with one magnificent payoff at the start of the second act. Dru Stephenson stands out as Debra’s sassy and quick-tempered confidant, Joanne Trevesani, and makes the most of some of the best lines in the show. I particularly enjoyed her description of her car: ‘the deep cherry cadillac parked in the disabled spot’. Elsewhere, Matt Bond gives an extraordinary vocal performance as Tony Delbono which is worth the price of admission alone.
It’s far from groundbreaking, and will need a good deal of refinement, but it’s a sufficiently diverting evening out.
“well worth seeing for its touching portrayal of Gen Z friendship and confirms Frankie Meredith as a writing talent to watch”
Frankie Meredith’s two-hander depicts best friends Yasmin and Casey navigating the dizzying transitions of Year 13: its whirlwind of illicit boozing, UCAS, sexual experimentation, open days, Snapchat and anxious parents. They are bright, ambitious girls (further maths loving Yasmin is applying to Imperial) sharing in the triumphs and crises of small town teenage existence. Their friendship provides solace from Yasmin’s overbearing Sikh household and Casey’s more ambiguous problems at home.
Meredith’s writing captures the texture of hyperactive teenspeak very well. She powerfully depicts the anxiety of lives saturated by social media, where every comment, view, like or unreturned message is a possible source of misery. One lovely scene has Yasmin constructing a forensic timeline of Casey’s recent romantic betrayal through apparently banal Instagram exchanges. Meredith skillfully suggests the struggle for current teens to forge their own identity amidst unprecedented expectations of social and academic success.
The show is technically ambitious, making canny and restrained use of projection to illustrate the girls’ online life. It benefits from Balisha Karra and Finley-Rose Townsend’s lucid direction and thoughtful use of the tricky traverse space in The Vaults’ Cavern. As the two girls, Annice Boparai and Emma James excel in evoking a late-pubescent combination of self-assurance and naivety. James also excels in her multi-rolling: her turn as Yasmin’s cocksure first-ever-boyfriend was especially well-drawn.
Though the characters are realised wonderfully, the show is less accomplished in its plotting and felt, at times, like a first draft. The second half drifts into familiar teen-drama territory, though this was redeemed towards the end by some moving insights and astute character development. The play also attempts to incorporate lyricism through the odd foray into rhyming couplets which don’t feel entirely organic against the rest of the dialogue.
Nevertheless, 17 is well worth seeing for its touching portrayal of Gen Z friendship and confirms Frankie Meredith as a writing talent to watch.