Haverfordwest
  • By Tom King
  • |
  • 12th Aug 2011
  • |
  • ★★★

Schooldays. Best days of your life. Yeah, right. There are a happy few for whom that may well be true; for whom this is their peak. When you’re standing on the precipice of a new life at university, away from home for the first time, the fear of the new is terrifying.This is the moment at the centre of Haverfordwest – the brief time when you feel trapped between desperately wanting to be grown-up and being afraid to move on. How the characters deal with this moment makes up the meat of the play.That means the play lives and dies with its actors, but luckily they are all very strong performers. Each brings their own depth to the part they play. Tamsin Newlands invests Jas with a brittle neurosis which crackles through her scenes, creating tension whenever she’s onstage. The balance to this, Charlotte Lewis, is a charmingly serene Esther; quiet and caring despite great difficulty in her recent past. Mark McKeever’s Rhys is the heart of the group – uncomplicated, naïve, kind and funny – and Amir El-Masry shows great range in making the cocky, aggressive Finn into living, breathing sympathetic character. Even Joshua Ward’s brief performance as Mark is developed enough to breathe life into a walk-on part. They’re helped in this by a script which is, for the most part, sparky and peppered with nice observations.Where the play falls down is in its structure. Jas sits at the centre of her friendship group but this group never quite feels real. Every character seems introduced merely for Jas to flirt with and discard – they don’t seem to relate to each other except through her. Rhys hardly interacts with Esther, Esther never really talks to Finn. Rhys and Jas’s breakup feels like it should be the emotional touchstone of the play but ends in just two short scenes. Likewise, Jas and Finn’s long and complicated relationship is explored but not resolved. Questions are raised but never answered.Georgia Coles-Riley has tried something interesting here and, in a slightly longer play, it might have worked. However it feels like an hour isn’t really long enough for the characters to be developed. Jas is a wonderfully frightening portrait of a woman who uses sex as a weapon, but there’s no real explanation of why she’s so broken. There’s also very little progression of character – she starts mean, she ends mean and, in doing so, loses the complexity she needs if she’s to be the centre of the play. This, combined with some slightly self-conscious teenage dialogue (has anyone ever ‘pwned’ an exam?) means that what should be an exploration of conflicted youth comes off as a little shallow. There’s a definite talent here but one which still needs to mature.

Reviews by Tom King

Underbelly, Cowgate

Lucy Farrett: Lois

★★★★
Underbelly, Cowgate

She Sells Sea Shells

★★★★
Summerhall

A Fortunate Man

★★★
Underbelly, Bristo Square / Underbelly, Cowgate

The Cat's Mother

★★★
The Stand Comedy Club 3 & 4

Phill Jupitus: Sassy Knack

★★★★
Traverse Theatre

Nigel Slater’s Toast

★★★

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The Blurb

Wikipedia describes the small Welsh town of Haverfordwest as an important road network hub between other towns. This blackly comic tale of a frustrated and relentlessly manipulative sixth-former there captures the heady turmoil of provincial teenage inertia.

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