Set against the backdrop of a school production of West Side Story, this is the story of Mr Taylor, a teacher in charge of putting on the production. It also features Jodie, a troubled pupil at the school, who nevertheless turns out to be the most naturally gifted actress that Mr Taylor (Jeff) has ever worked with.
The character of Jodie is played flawlessly
The story is set over a number of months, as we hear their individual stories and what changes for both of them when their lives collide. It seems that most of the teaching staff have already written Jodie off, and they do their utmost to discourage Jeff from casting her in the play. He stands up for his belief that she will make the best Maria, and casts her despite them. Jodie has never aspired to do anything beyond become a nail technician, and accompanies her best friend to the auditions without any ambition for herself. However she discovers that she comes alive when acting, and as Jeff says, 'she just gets it'. He becomes her mentor, and she loses all her friends who perceive her to be doing something 'poncy'. She even loses her boyfriend, and realises that ultimately he was not interested in who she is as a person. This is a tender development to her character arc, her realisation that she is a person worth being interested in.
Each of the scene changes are accompanied by music from West Side Story and it helps if you know the piece. We watch as she does indeed ‘get it’, we watch her wobble and we watch her succeed. Mr Taylor becomes the mentor we all wish we had on our side growing up, and we wish Jodie to succeed and go on to a future at drama school with the chance of fulfilling a potential nobody even knew she had.
The character of Jodie is played flawlessly. She is utterly believable and gives an astonishing performance. The change when she becomes Maria in West Side Story is jaw-droppingly good. Perhaps suffering from the comparison, Jeff is not as believable and seems to drop in and out of character. There are some odd directional choices, and some needless box moving which becomes a little distracting. It also felt a little like a rehearsal rather than a performance in some places. The story itself, if it had focussed on the dynamics of the relationship between these two key characters, would have been plenty and fascinating to watch. Despite a well written script, the writer also threw some other issues in there which would have been worth a separate performance as they have significant gravitas of their own. The ending, however real, was disappointing and sudden and leaves little satisfaction as you leave still wondering what happened. However, seeing the actress perform the part of Jodie is a shining light in the piece.