Anyone looking for important and assured new writing would be well-advised to give Ecce Theatre’s Crazed a look. Opening as a well-observed comedy on student living, the play becomes a hard-hitting and nuanced exploration of consent. Students will be struck by how well they recognise themselves and their friends and any audience member will be left with knotty moral problems to untangle.

Well-written and confidently acted.

One of the play’s best qualities is its naturalism. Catherine Cranfield’s dialogue is utterly believable and leaves out none of the awkwardness and struggles to express oneself that plague real people. For the most part the cast manage to match the writing’s level of naturalism. Whether making amorous advances on a traffic cone in the early hours or suffering from a killer hangover, the performances were understated and relatable.Despite a battered sofa being the only thing close to a set, the way the characters inhabited the space meant that you always felt you were looking onto a grotty student living room.

The drama was dominated by ill-fated couple Milo (Bertie Gibbs) and Callie (Eliana Ostro), whose burgeoning romance is derailed when Milo starts to become demanding and controlling. It was easy to poke fun at Callie for her likeness to ‘gap yah’ stereotypes, but Ostro painted her character’s vulnerability with real delicacy, and the way she reacted at the play’s conclusion was painfully real. Gibbs was fantastic at allowing Milo’s charming demeanour to co-exist with the darker sides of his personality, which emerged gradually throughout the play. Just like his best friend Liv (Kate Cranfield), you grow to know and like Milo, and would most likely feel her disbelief when accusations start to fly if you hadn’t seen his unforgivable act yourself.

One of the piece’s few flaws was that the more minor characters weren’t developed to the same extent as Milo, Liv and Callie, and sometimes it seemed they were just there to make up the numbers. Georgia Phillips gave her character real depth despite the script’s occasional tendency to make Rosie the stereotypical uptight housemate, but Fergus Macphee and Jack Harrison were less memorable in slightly underwritten roles and sometimes struggled to match the others’ levels of naturalism.

The play’s final scenes were incredibly powerful in their handling of a very difficult issue and remarkable for their underplayed emotion. Cranfield was particularly good in her final confrontation with Milo and they conveyed enormous tension through their body language. The ending did feel a little abrupt, but this was perhaps because we were left wanting more and denied any neat conclusions.

This is a play that will stay with you and force you to question how you would behave in a similar situation. What’s more, it’s well-written and confidently acted. On the whole, Crazed offers a slice of student life with an emotionally devastating climax.

Reviews by Simon Fearn

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The Blurb

Callie, Liv, Joe, Milo, Nick and Rosie are half way through the best years of their life, at Manchester University surrounded by drinks, drugs and drama. As the year unfolds they are forced to ask: how well do you really know your best friends? But when everyone is off their heads, what about consent? Ecce Theatre's brand new production, Crazed, presents an open and honest account of student life.