RAZ by Jim Cartwright

It’s a deceptively simple bag of ingredients that Jim Cartwright lists in the script for his new play Raz, which has had its premiere at this year’s Festival Fringe. “Character Shane, a young man. Time Now. Setting a Northern town. An empty stage - all environments and props created by the actor.” Over to you son.

It’s fun, it’s clever, it’s well written and it’s brilliantly performed.

The added dimension to this new gem lies in James Cartwright being charged with creating the character of Shane. No pressure there, then. Nothing like keeping it in the family. Dad will not be disappointed. The boy has done a fantastic job. I say boy, but he is now thirty. The casting is not without precedent. James was also in his father’s hugely successful The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, but the shyness that role demanded has now given way to the bubbling confidence of being not just one of the lads but the leader of the pack. This pairing of father and son probably gives added life to the script. When James delivers a line I imagine he can hear his father saying it and in this ‘northern’ play, which we know means Lancastrian, he can infuse it with all the nuances his father intended.

The weekend begins on Friday night. All lads know that and Shane wastes no time getting started. “First thing, the tanning shop, a good nine-minute blaster!” We never see the clothes from his job as a stacker truck driver: he’s already stretched out on the sunbed in just his Superman underpants and protective goggles, revealing how fit he is and flaunting his body, but not as much as he intends to flaunt it later.

Then it’s time to get the show on the road, as any Cartwright would. Out come the clothes and down goes the pre-club drink or perhaps bottle. No lad leaves the house sober. Then, in a series of frantic phone calls, it’s time to check out venues with mates, take the orders, get ‘the stuff’ organised and make sure the talent is informed. Now we’re all ready and off we go down the streets into the pub, out to the car park, back to the pub, then to another pub and another and another and another and before we know where we are it’s time to hit the club and meet a few more birds and sundry others before facing the dreaded journey home totally wasted.

It’s an action-packed night with scenes vividly conjured up by James. He’s a master of mimes with split-second timing and a range of voices to create the characters we meet on the town. Amongst all the high-energy partying he also slows the pace down and opens up his heart to reflect on his former girlfriend, revealing another side to Shane’s character far removed from all the outward show of brashness.

Supporting his efforts on stage James has an accomplished and creative sound and lighting team making a vital contribution to this sparkling production. Lots of lads will identify with Shane and loads of girls have probably met his like, but everyone can enjoy this show: it’s fun, it’s clever, it’s well written and it’s brilliantly performed. 

Reviews by Richard Beck

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The Blurb

'Friday night, first thing, the tanning shop, a good nine-minute blaster!' Shane is another 30-year-old weekend millionaire, still living at home with his parents. Tonight, he’s hitting the town. On Monday, he’ll start again. A bitingly comic new play for a boozed-up Britain, by Olivier Award winner Jim Cartwright (The Rise and Fall of Little Voice, Road). Directed by Anthony Banks (former Associate Director at the National Theatre). Performed by James Cartwright (The History Boys; PC Burns in The Archers, BBC Radio 4; Johnny Shakespeare, BBC One – Best Actor, Royal Television Society Awards).