Old Red Lion Theatre
Reviewed – 6th April 2018
“like a heartbeat that lived throughout and breathed life into the entire performance”
Plastic opens with an energetic promise of what today could be: “a Reebok classic of a day”, and then the audience are propelled into a nostalgic yet familiar sense of the promise and possibility of what it means to be young. You could be a legend. Or you could be a loser. What you once were and what you will be. But in which order?
First we meet Kev (Mark Weinman) who animatedly chronicles in delicious detail the legacy he left at school as “a football legend”. The type of lad boys wanted to be mates with and all the girls fancied. Weinman presents a character who is instantly likeable, and as the story progresses the audience get an increasing sense that life may not have delivered on all its promises set up in the school playground. Until he meets Lisa (skilfully played by Madison Clare), a gutsy sixteen year old schoolgirl who seems to represent all Kev had and still wants to be. Weinman and Clare perfectly encapsulate the all encompassing nervy experience of carefully navigating your first relationship, and how it can be public property for whispering gossip and ridicule in the school halls.
Alongside this evolving relationship between Kev and Lisa, there is another between two loyal school friends Jack (Louis Greatorex) and Ben (Thomas Coombes). Jack and Ben are in the same year as Lisa but bumped down a few pegs lower on the school’s hierarchy. Their friendship is one of both survival and of genuine admiration for each other. They help each other dodge the bullies and cling onto their childhood friendship with Lisa as their bridge between them and their more popular peers.
Ben is being bullied and every day is a balancing act of avoiding attacks and trying to show that they aren’t getting to him. Thomas Coombes delivers a speech detailing the painful goings on during a science lesson that has every audience member holding their breath in solidarity.
The cast give a real lesson in what it means to perform as an ensemble, with every transition between moments being seamless. The direction from Josh Roche was clear; he carefully drove the story at quite a pace, whilst simultaneously giving the more tender moments the breathing space they required, which meant that in turn that audience were absolutely present and engaged throughout.
The play itself, written by Kenneth Emson, was like nothing I had ever seen before. The text was poem-like with rhyming couplets in parts and was hugely evocative and visual; It had its own rhythm, like a heartbeat that lived throughout and breathed life into the entire performance.
The relationships forged onstage were absolutely believable, provoking raucous laughter from the audience in parts and in other more tender and grisly moments the silence was loaded. There wasn’t a moment that didn’t belong to the characters onstage. The emotional truth in all characters was both staggering and mesmerising, with a particular nod to Madison Clare whose performance as Lisa left the audience reeling in wonder.
Reviewed for thespyinthestalls.com
Photography by Mathew Foster
Old Red Lion Theatre until 21st April