Maria, 1968 is a contemporary take on Romanticism – in all its forms. Ultimately, this is a play about friendship and love in cute, quirky fashion, set in a modern Bohemian world. Our hapless hero Noah, a 22 year old writer, personifies the plight of the Romantic hero. Struggling for inspiration, it’s only when he’s dumped by his girlfriend Lily that he’s finally able to type on his precious typewriter, art stemming from his broken heart.
This narrative is paralleled by the story Noah writes of a group of three Englishman stuck in Greece in 1968, the themes of which complement the primary narrative thread. Cleverly, these two worlds blur together with surreal humour, Noah on-stage typing the story as it plays out for the audience. Art and life collide in comic fashion: a Greek drinking song complete with mandolin for example, or a later scene that sees Noah literally directing the play before us using desk lamps for lighting and utilising clichés with hilarious results.
The direction is cinematic, with props and set wheeled around the stage by the cast to turn scene changes into part of the drama. These are accompanied by a 60s soundtrack (including the likes of the Beatles) that bring a touch of psychedelia to the surreal, drug-fuelled humour. A fresh and witty script uses metaphor and references to continue the Romantic theme, performed by a young cast from East 15 Acting School. A talented bunch, their characterisation is colourful and endearing. Noah’s awkward behaviour is well depicted and complemented by his annoying, perpetually chatty best mate Ed and their gangster bruv Ricky.
Maria, 1968 is a fantastic piece of original writing that’s cute, comic, and warm-hearted. Antler Theatre have proven themselves to be a company well worth keeping an eye on.