It’s rare when the title of a show manages to effectively review itself. Unfortunately, this is the case for Half Baked. As the very first show from new Brighton-based theatre company Covert Accomplice, you might not expect a fully polished performance. However, everything from the writing to the performances only ever seemed to get halfway there.
The play either needs a more engaging plot, or sharper dialogue. Preferably both.
Four twenty-somethings, a mixture of not-so-recent graduates and self-proclaimed failures, are stuck in dead end jobs in a dead end town. Sky wants to go on a life-changing gap year, but her friends Elly, Tweak and Frankie seem to have no plans beyond where to buy the next packet of crisps. Any ambition they once had has been ground down by a cycle of rejection and a lack of opportunity and they forget their sorrows with endless parties.
Too often it feels like the show’s form too closely mirrors its content, with the results giving off more of a student workshop vibe than that of a completed play. A prolonged scene where the characters are stoned sees the cast having more fun than the audience, especially as some of the so-called jokes were as dull as a poorly rolled joint.
In all fairness, writer and director Chance Bliss Dini seemed to want to develop characters and their interactions, rather than having a focus on a plot. However, this just resulted in a storyline that didn’t go anywhere fast, and took a long time to get there. The show would have benefitted from editing; for example an under developed storyline about domestic abuse was introduced without ever being given the time it needed to be effective.
The show was not helped by a magnificently unconvincing performance from Louis Heriz-Smith who spent much of the play looking as though he’d wandered onto the stage somewhat by accident. Bright spots existed here and there and, as a package, the play is not without merit. A general sense of ennui gave me flashbacks to misspent student days, whilst Frankie was excellent: a well-written character with an intensity convincingly played by Sam Razvi. There was a natural chemistry within the group, making for a believable bunch of friends.
It was an enjoyable evening and there were enough moments where I was briefly caught up in the story, before some clunky dialogue, forced moment or unconvincing performance broke the spell. The play either needs a more engaging plot, or sharper dialogue. Preferably both. Without which, I am once again drawn to the title for the perfect summary:Half Baked.