“an important play that intuitively understands the struggles of being a teenager in a toxic, image-focused society”
Alice is sixteen and eagerly waiting for something exciting to happen to her. Something that involves Fit Jamie from maths; something that proves she isn’t being left behind. But when something does happen, it is neither as exciting, nor as good, as she hoped it would be. It is something difficult. Something with consequences.
Amy Blakelock’s examination of social media, sex and teenage anxiety has all the elements of a good story: a likeable protagonist, a compelling narrative, and a shocking twist. Blakelock tells this story using an authentic teenage voice. Aspects sound a little artificial, but are mostly pertinent and always entertaining. The early parts of her script are full of faux maturity, sprinkled with clichés about how GCSEs can’t be all that – ‘Dad only got one O Level, and that was in woodwork’ – and the definitive list of what men (read: teenage boys) want. Blakelock effectively deepens these themes as the story grows darker, forcing the audience to reflect on the damage that such highly promoted ideals can do.
Robyn Wilson is endearing as Alice, full of energy and openness that makes her easy to connect with. Her delivery is subtly humorous in its naïveté, but still ripples with emotional honesty. The highlight of Wilson’s performance is her portrayal of Alice’s response to the event, in which these ripples become torrents that chill the observer.
Another aspect that deserves praise is Verity Johnson’s set, which acts as a clever metaphor for the themes of openness and shame. Four white platforms and a set of lockers become hiding places for painful aspects of the past that lie in wait until Alice is ready to reclaim them.
The main issue is the pace of the show: whilst it creates a character arc and a satisfying conclusion, this comes at the expense of close examination. There are several aspects of this story that I feel could have been expanded on. It would have been interesting, for example, to see the consequences faced not only by Alice, but by the perpetrators. Even this moment in Alice’s story feels a little vague, as her interactions with teachers, counsellors and the police pass us by in quick succession. I think it would have been beneficial to interrogate how schools deal with events like this, and whether or not the outcome really reflects the seriousness of the crime. It would also have explained Alice’s new found wisdom, which Wilson beautifully exhibits in the final scene.
Despite its flaws, Easy is an important play that intuitively understands the struggles of being a teenager in a toxic, image-focused society. Whilst it may seem to be a play for teenage girls about teenage girls, it is key that this kind of story reaches everyone, so that we can, as a whole, understand the implications of this toxicity on young people today.
We are all familiar with the potency of obsessive teenage love. But what happens when that love is slowly devoured by circumstance, leaving trauma in its wake? Does time heal everything, or are some wounds irreparable?
Such a story should be impactful, written with purpose and precision. It is best told by engaging actors who can deliver rich, emotionally charged dialogue. A bit of choreography wouldn’t hurt, either.
Iskandar R. Sharazuddin’s Post-Mortem unites all these things to tell the story of Nancy and Alex, a couple whose tender, obsessive love for each other declines in the face of tragedy. The carcass of their relationship rattles with secrets, but it isn’t until ten years later – when they are best man and maid of honour at their friends’ wedding – that they come to light.
Sharazuddin’s writing is sensitive and balanced, a mixture of dialogue and monologues that illuminate aspects of their relationship and character. The image of them meeting in biology class whilst dissecting a pig heart (which Alex can’t touch, apparently, for religious reasons) perfectly sets the tone for their relationship and its eventual disintegration. Metaphors – the pig heart, Nancy’s obsession with hoovering, the wedding sonnet – elevate their caustic, subtly humorous conversations.
Small details provide a deeper insight into the characters’ emotional cores. Alex worries that his peers will make fun of his Asian heritage and homemade biriyani; Nancy comes from ‘a family of liars’, including a Lithuanian grandma who sits outside McDonalds and shouts at people. This hints at their respective insecurity and secretiveness, however these threads feel somewhat loose in the tightly woven tapestry of the whole. I would have loved to have seen these instances revisited in later scenes, both for the sake of nostalgia and to assert the importance of these formative feelings in determining the course of their lives.
Nevertheless, this is compensated for by the evocative movement sequences, which enhance and bridge the gaps between the fragmented scenes. Performed across the length of a white stage, they are beautifully illuminated by subtle lighting (set/costume design by Eleanor Bull and light/sound by Will Alder). It casts their shadows across the high walls of The Space, making the movement all the more haunting and beautiful.
Sharazuddin also performs in the piece, alongside Essie Barrow as Nancy. The pair have strong chemistry, which is clearly expressed in the movement sequences as well as in the dialogue. They engage with each other and the audience; their frequent eye contact makes it seem as though they are talking to us directly. Sharazuddin’s Alex is sensitive, yet reckless, whilst Barrow’s Nancy is strong and decisive. Their character development is subtle and believable and leads to a satisfying conclusion.
The one disappointment with this performance is that it was not well-attended. It seems a shame that such a well-constructed show should go unnoticed, especially given the thought-provoking nature of its content. Once seen, this sensitive and profound show leaves an impression that is hard to shake off.