There are two very good reasons for going to see Fresher: it is an outstanding play that ingeniously tackles contemporary issues, and the production is also raising money for Young Minds, a charity specialising in mental health services for young people.

all the drama of a courtroom with cutting lines and tragic stories

Alex Boyd-Williams and Jim Reddy, housemasters at Uppingham School, have written a remarkable play that takes an exciting new approach to matters that students are likely to encounter as they start their university careers.

The play is set in a UK university. Ten students have been required to attend the University Rehabilitation and Welfare Centre as a result of their behaviour during Freshers’ Week. In order to remain at the university, the freshers must demonstrate that they can atone for their wrongdoing by understanding the impact of their actions, and that they can help each other do the same. Effectively locked in a room, each student has to read out his or her charge sheet. Other members of the group must then roleplay the situation to show the accused the unacceptable nature of the offence. The play has all the drama of a courtroom with cutting lines and tragic stories.

Each of the cast creates a clearly defined character in this saga. Freddie Peel (Lee) provides early humour as a boy clearly living in a world of sexual fantasy and grossly exaggerated prowess, but that isn’t the most serious issue that’s plagued him since his mother’s death. Mili Kenworthy (Ruby) gives an impassioned portrayal of the practicalities of living and caring for her disabled father but survives by dubious means. Alice James (Megan) gives a confidently self-righteous performance with a contrasting demise once she faces accusations arising from her own weaknesses. Alex Tear (Jasper) cuts a dash and eloquently portrays the smooth-talking privileged boy with the wealthy father, who will be less than impressed by his son, if the truth of his private antics ever emerges. Angus Cooper (Damon) gives a captivating and sustained performance as the boy who initially will not speak but ultimately comes out with some of the most viciously pointed remarks against others though is not without fault himself. Milo Linney (Ben) creates a tragic transformation of character once the reasons behind his unacceptable social behaviour are revealed. David Nakhapetyan (Egor) provides some much-needed comic relief, even though his issues are serious. He creates an amusingly bizarre Russian boy possessed of a bafflingly crazy logic. In case you wonder, his eccentric accent may be somewhat exaggerated but Nakhapetyan really is Russian. Eloise Bland (Gemma), with an air of casual normality, manages to shock her fellow students with her somewhat open private life. Amidst all the accusations and criticisms that fly around, Kitty Parker (Lucy) sits nervously and mostly silently trying to cope with her anxieties andADD making her revelations all the more surprising. Estee Keith (Sofia) assumes a character so full of herself that she has created a blog called Beautiful Sofia - though that’s not her only cyber activity.

After a shaky and perhaps nervous start the momentum of the play picks up. Agonisingly, each student has to face up to being responsible and learn that actions have consequences. The revelations pour out, the accusations fly around and the tension mounts reaching a climax that is surprising, painful and sad. Fresher unflinchingly confronts serious issues, as do so many plays, but it also brings a dynamically fresh approach to dealing with topics that often seem old hat.

Reviews by Richard Beck

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The Blurb

The party is over. Ten students are facing the consequences of freshers' week. The university has decided that each student has individually caused serious concern. Isolated in the University Rehabilitation and Disciplinary Centre, the freshers must stand trial in front of their peers or be forced to leave the university. Will the freshers take responsibility and confront the challenges of their generation or will they remain unmoved in their beliefs and behaviours? Fresher is a new play, inspired and performed by young people who themselves are soon to embark on the most exciting and challenging time of their lives.