Runts

To bully or be bullied? That is the question. It certainly seems to have been for award-winning writer Izzy Tennyson who has delivered a script that suggests teenage life is a maelstrom of psychological bullying, homophobia and vindictive cruelty. Armed with a brutal script about adolescence, this is an edgy, exhilarating drama from a stellar young cast.

Moments of bitter laughter were swiftly followed by terrible thoughts, as the line between banter and bullying became ever more blurred.

Alexa is posh. Or at least she used to go to a private school but thanks to her father losing his job and leaving home, she’s been sent to the local comp. It’s this set-up that introduces us to Alexa's class, an ensemble of teenagers hiding a multitude of behavioural issues within their layered characters.

A superb cast had the physical and emotional trauma of adolescence nailed to a tee and ranged from an outright vicious pack mentality to subtle psychological bullying. Tennyson’s script quickly snapped from laughter to fear and violence to vulnerability, with bullies quickly becoming the bullied. There’s a strong mix of well-observed characters, from Harriet (Bronte Sandwell) the not-quite pretty enough girl, masterfully delivering snide comments and smirks, to apathetic Egg, an outstanding performance from Maisie Meadows, whose clingy and nervy behaviour made us want to push her away, as much as Amy Lubach’s Alexa did.

Settling on which cast member stood out the most, provoked discussion long after the show’s conclusion. Each was complex, believable and familiar and it was clear that this cast of first-rate young actors had fully mastered the art of painful teenage vulnerability.

The ease in which Runts casually throws about homophobia, troubled home-life and allegations of assault, with a typical teenage exaggeration, gave an added dimension to these darker topics. Moments of bitter laughter were swiftly followed by terrible thoughts, as the line between banter and bullying became ever more blurred.

Runts could very well have been an opening episode for a TV series, and it wouldn’t be surprising for Tennyson to gravitate toward this medium. We were introduced to central characters, learnt background stories and clear plot-lines were set. Certainly Runts had the feeling of setting the scene for future episodes. However, this made for an unsatisfying conclusion which tailed off after a scene with Kitty, who was played magnificently by Rosie Taylor-Ritson, being physically assaulted.

Runts is a compelling play lifted further by excellent actors.If Tennyson does end up developing it for TV, I would more than recommend using the same cast.

Reviews by Nicholas Abrams

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The Blurb

Award-winning writer, Izzy Tennyson’s brutal reality check - conflict and violence at a provincial state all-girls school. Fresh new writing, visceral, uncompromising and shocking. A shot in the arm for Fringe theatre. "Game changer" (The New Current), "Theatre at its best" (British Theatre Guide)

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