This is a pretty great show. It’s about two teenagers, Doll and Ted (Norah Lopez Holden and George Caple respectively), who both have a lot going on in the background of their lives – barely any of it good – but who spend an hour, essentially, telling us the story of their friendship. They’re an odd pair. Doll’s pregnant but she won’t tell anyone who the father is – not even Ted. Ted’s had a tragedy in his life which he won’t talk about with anyone – not even Doll. The secrets they keep from one another will be revealed over the course of the play, and both actors play these moments of revelation with a real tenderness.
The writing is strong throughout.
The acting in the play as a whole is fantastic. Lopez Holden and Caple are truly committed; they don’t shy away from, or try to underplay, hard moments for their characters, but they also manage to bounce off each other with a pleasing energy during lighter moments. Director Jamie Jackson clearly has a good appreciation for space (the small stage never felt stifling), and it also seems as though a lot of focus has been put into the actors’ movement. Both are fluent in the awkward and self-conscious but determined flouncy-ness which marks Doll and Ted’s adolescence. Caple has great comic timing and an appealing puppyish eagerness, which gradually subsides as the play goes on and we learn more about him. Lopez Holden is just a bundle of complexity and anger and hurt – it’s a great performance which finds proper depth in Doll’s character.
The writing is strong throughout. ‘Teenaged lies which spiral out of control’ is a well-worn trope, but Phoebe Éclair-Powell’s script stays original. She makes her characters eloquent, but in a way that feels natural to their personalities and the words they use. Doll at one point wants desperately to tell her mother that she wants to ‘be wrapped in a blanket full of her arms’. It’s desperately sad.
As for the ‘epic’ love and pop songs, they’re playing almost throughout, gently in the background (apart from a couple of scenes in which they blare out, and Doll and Ted dance furiously and defiantly). They’re a nice touch. As Doll informs us early on, this is her story, and these songs feel exactly like the ones a sixteen year-old Doll would choose to soundtrack her life.
Doll and Ted aren’t just looking for attention – that’s far too simplistic. They’re looking for something which even they can’t really define – some point or purpose, or at least a brief period in their lives which won’t be underwhelming or disappointing. Eventually these characters will have to ‘Grow the fuck up’ and realise that ‘Life’s just not that exciting’, as Doll’s mother cruelly sneers during a particularly hard scene. It’s unclear if Doll and Ted find what they’re looking for or simply give up the search.