17**** (Finborough Theatre)

Posted: July 23, 2014 in Theatre

Photo Booth LibraryThis review was originally written for The Public Reviews – http://www.thepublicreviews.com

Bereaved, homeless and 17, an unenviable triple whammy for Scott, the central character of Dameon Garnett’s play, which is receiving its World Premiere here. Scott’s most treasured possessions are a tank which is home to Dave, his pet snake, and a box containing the ashes of his recently deceased mother by adoption. Clinging to both, he begins to make his home with Lisa, his birth mother, Daniel, her husband and the couple’s 15-year old son Leo. This is a human comedy/drama which charts the integration of a new member into an established family unit. Set in modern day Liverpool, the play also makes astute observations on class and social attitudes. The family is aspiring and middle class, eating mushroom risotto as their evening meal, whilst Scott, who has been raised at least one rung down the social ladder, insists that he will only eat chips. Understandably, Scott needs to establish and retain his own identity; equally understandably, the family can only move so far in order to absorb the newcomer into its midst.! ! Garnett’s writing is rich with everyday humour, funny yet truthful. Very wisely, he realises that verbal expressions of emotions by these characters would sound forced and unnatural, so he places great trust in director Emma Faulkner and the actors to bring out their inner feelings. The trust is repaid, particularly by Ryan Blackburn, who is given very little of real substance to say as Scott, yet manages to project his character’s feelings of abandonment and isolation through physical expression. Similarly, Lisa is not given the words to convey maternal tenderness towards Scott, but Catherine Harvey’s performance makes it implicit. She is domineering and a figure of fun for much of the play, until she is pushed beyond her limits and explodes with rage, fully exposing her frustration and guilt. Paul Regan’s Daniel is tolerant and reasonable, as befits a man who reads The Guardian because he saw it in Starbucks. Greg Fossard’s Leo is a cheeky and confident youngster who firstly sees his newly found half brother as a chav, but one of the play’s most touching features is the development of the relationship between the two teenage boys. The Finborough is already a small space, but setting this play in the round makes it even smaller and the performance area is restricted still further when the centre of the stage is occupied by a large block, doubling as a kitchen unit and the boys’ bunk beds. The play benefits from the claustrophobic atmosphere which this creates, but it loses from the actors having so little room to move. Running for under 90 minutes straight through, the performance here is extended by a seemingly unnecessary interval, which interrupts the flow. However, leaving aside minor gripes, this small scale production is highly impressive and deserving of a wider audience.

Performance date: 21 July 2014)

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