“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.
Production images have been released for Marius von Mayenburg’s Plastic which will run at Theatre Royal Bath’s Ustinov Studio until Saturday 25 March.
The production will star Brenock O’Connor as Vincent, Charlotte Randle as Ulrike, Steve John Shepherd as Haulupa, Jonathan Slinger as Michael and Ria Zmitrowicz as Jessica. Plastic has been translated by Maja Zade and is directed by Olivier Award nominee Matthew Dunster.
Michael and Ulrike are on the brink. Michael is a doctor, with ambitions of heroic grandeur; Ulrike, his wife, is assistant to the infamous Serge Haulupa, a bizarre conceptual artist; Vincent, their teenage son is hitting puberty with a vengeance – and a video camera; Jessica Schmitt is the new cleaner thrust in to clean up their mess. Utter pandemonium ensues when Serge invites himself to Michael and Ulrike’s house to make art over dinner. The food fight is just the start of it…
Brenock O’Connor is best known for his role as Olly in Game of Thrones and Peter Cratchit in Dickensian. He also starred in the UK Tour of Oliver! as The Artful Dodger.
Charlotte Randle’s recent stage credits include Mary in Yerma (Young Vic), Medea (Almeida Theatre), Public Enemy (Young Vic) and Birdland (Royal Court). Television credits include Father Brown, The Trials of Jimmy Rose and Silent Witness.
Steve John Shepherd is best known for his role as Michael Moon in EastEnders. Theatre credits include The Good Canary (Rose Theatre Kingston), Bomber’s Moon (Trafalgar Studios) and Albion (Bush Theatre).
Jonathan Slinger was most recently seen as Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (Theatre Royal Drury Lane). Extensive credits for the RSC include the title role in Hamlet, Parolles in All’s Well That Ends Well and Prospero in The Tempest.
Ria Zmitrowicz’s notable television credits include Miss Ellis in ITV’s Mr Selfridge and Jodie in Channel 4’s Youngers. Theatre credits include X (Royal Court), Four Minutes Twelve Seconds (Trafalgar Studios) and The Crucible (Royal Exchange Theatre).
Marius von Mayenburg is a trail-blazer for contemporary European theatre. In 2007 his play The Ugly One opened at the Royal Court to critical acclaim and in 2015 Martyr opened at the Unicorn Theatre.
Matthew Dunster is an Olivier Award nominated Director and Associate Director at Shakespeare’s Globe. Recent productions include Martin McDonagh’s Hangmen (Royal Court; Wyndham’s Theatre), Liberian Girl (Royal Court), plus The Seagull and A Midsummer Night’s Dream for Regent’s Park Open Air Theatre.
Plastic is the first production in The German Season at the Ustinov Studio, which will present the UK premieres of two acclaimed plays from celebrated German writers. The season will conclude with Daniel Kehlmann’s The Mentor starring Academy Award-winner F. Murray Abraham. Directed by the Ustinov Studio’s Artistic Director Laurence Boswell and translated by Christopher Hampton the production will run from Thursday 6 April to Saturday 6 May.
By Marius von Mayenburg In a translation by Maja Zade Directed by Matthew Dunster
Thursday 23 February – Saturday 25 March 2017 | 7.45pm, Matinees Thu & Sat 2.30pm