This tense drama, nominated for two best new play awards in 2010, centers around the lives of seven young people as they sit their mock ‘A’ Levels at a public school. The play opens with the flowering friendship between William and new girl Lily and I was lulled into thinking this was going to be a run of the mill teenage relationship angst drama. But the sharply focussed script from Simon Stephens builds as each character is introduced; bully Bennett and his girlfriend straight-A Cissy, swotty Tanya, jolly hockey sticks Nicholas, Asperger’s Chadwick, flirty Lily and weird William. Sometimes two characters dominate the stage and sometimes all the characters as the relationships and power games unfold. Each character has a social/emotional issue that exposes their vulnerability. The academic pressures of parental expectation at this fee-paying school combined with peer pressure builds to a heady and terrifying climax.The use of white noise and punk music between scenes adds to the feelings of tension and of searching for a clear voice within a barrage of information. Each character was played with utterly convincing emotions but it was the sheer power of Wesley Lineham as the brutal Bennett that brought home the fully visceral nature of this production.
Sitting next to me was a teacher who works at an adolescent psychiatric unit and she confirmed the disturbing yet realistic nature of the problems portrayed. She found it a truthful and discomforting portrayal.
The character of the doctor was almost redundant which was shame because it was well played, calm and understated; a good foil to Will Merick’s intense portrayal of William. This production strips away the usual boundaries and like a modern day Lord of the Flies, all order disintegrates. No Prophet Theatre’s run is already half-way through and playing to packed houses. Do anything you can to get a ticket.