Chapel Street

If ever the strength of a story lay in its telling, Chapel Street would be a perfect example. Luke Barnes’ play is written in a punchy, in-yer-face style which could easily fall flat if not attacked with venom. Jessica Melia and Christopher Round do just that in a hard-hitting yet humorous portrayal of what Gritty Theatre Company describes as “an acerbic, yet compassionate and comic portrait of good times gone bad for a betrayed generation in broken Britain”.

An evening of laughs tinged with the sadness that what they present, seen as entertainment, is the reality of everyday life for so many young people.

The company usually performs Chapel Street in pubs where the actors can move freely amongst the audience of drinkers, so the move to Surgeons’ Hall is a rather sobering experience. Undeterred, they continue to bring the play to the punters, keeping the stage and auditorium fully lit and moving freely between the two. The story is told as separate monologues that run side by side and interject with each other until the plot draws the two characters together in a duologue. Empty beer crates are craftily reconfigured throughout to build the various locations, scenes and sets.

Joe is a young man who would like a satisfying career but is always dissatisfied with the job offers. Hence he has an alternative life of going out on the town with his mates to get wasted and search for lustful fulfilment. Yet for all the ways he is repulsive, he remains likeable. Fourteen year old Kirsty has university aspirations but is put down by her careers teacher. As it’s Friday night she picks up a bottle of vodka on the way home from school, in preparation for a night out to celebrate her friend’s birthday - all while trying to avoid her friend’s father.

The two protagonists create accessible characters in whom everyone can find something in their past, or maybe even present, with which to identify. Christopher’s is brash, rugged and crudely forthright with the attraction of a fundamentally good lad lost in a world that’s too hard to opt into. Jessica’s is knowing and almost wise for her age and although frustrated retains a sense of hope.

The structure of the play makes for disjointed text that occasionally hinders the flow of the story. There are also times when the strong accents and rapid delivery causes words to be lost but overall the tremendous pace and superb timing give energy to the work. The duo works unhesitatingly well as a team with visible rapport. Together they provide an evening of laughs tinged with the sadness that what they present, seen as entertainment, is the reality of everyday life for so many young people.

Reviews by Richard Beck

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Performances

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The Blurb

Two young people each tell their own version of a drunken night out. He's been let down, belittled and ignored but tonight none of that matters – it's Friday and Joe is getting smashed. Kirsty has bought some vodka on the way home from school and is hastily shaving her legs with her friend's dad's razor. As bottles are drained and the sun sets, the two hit the town, neither aware that soon their lives will irreconcilably collide. An acerbic, yet compassionate and comic portrait of good times gone bad for a betrayed generation in broken Britain.

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