Three lads have certain things in common. Each grew up without a father. Each committed a crime or two of one sort or another. Each is now confined to the same Young Offender Institute and each is about to become a father. Shook won Samuel Bailey the 2019 Papatango New Writing Prize from among the 1406 entries, such is the quality of the script.
a moving and powerfully performed production
Dressed in casual light grey jogging bottoms and matching tops they could easily seem like mates in the same sports team. Indeed, they are mates, but largely out of necessity; you need friends in a place like this. They’re brought together on this occasion to receive parenting classes in anticipation of being released, at some stage, and having to help in bringing up a baby. The prospect is daunting, but no more so than the whole idea of a future return to everyday life outside the institution, which supplies food, shelter and security, minus the hugs that make you feel human. Their low self-esteem and vulnerability, despite all the outward bravado, tinges even the brightest prospects and opportunities with doubt and fear. Is it inevitable that they enter a downward spiral of criminality and incarceration? Could they ever start a course of study with people who would probably want nothing to do with them and where they would not fit in? These and many other questions they confront on a daily basis.
With a west-Glaswegian accent you could cut with a knife, you don't have to understand every word Kieran Begley says, (and you won’t!), you just have to marvel at the intensity of his highly charged and emotional delivery as Cain, that conveys more meaning than a thousand words. The pent-up anger he lets rip in vicious remarks and furious rants are straight from the gut, betraying Cain’s tough exterior and revealing the anguish-ridden boy’s tragic mental state. In stark contrast, William Dron portrays Jonjo, guilty of the most heinous of crimes committed within this group. Barely able to understand the enormity of what he has done, Dron’s mastery of a sustained stammer that permeates the body is a masterpiece of technique. He captures the nervous, withdrawn disposition of this weak, vulnerable lad, but also shows how victimisation and bullying can enrage even the seemingly meakest of individuals. Between these two, often literally keeping them apart, is Ryan, played by the imposing Ryan Stoddart. Physically the biggest of the group he seems the most balanced and rational. Stoddart presents a figure able to acknowledge his past and look forward to a different future. Again, however, beneath the cool exterior he flaunts lies the nervous, doubting boy who lacks the belief in himself to move forward.
Rebecca Morgan’s performance as Grace, the woman charged with giving the fatherhood classes, is full of the calm, consoling, advisory and comforting qualities that might be expected of someone taking on the challenge of instructing and gaining the confidence of such difficult individuals. In terms of fully developing her character she has probably done herself no favours by also directing the play, where she has undoubtedly scored a considerable success.
Shook, at theSpaceTriplix, is from 4th year students, now presumably graduates, on the Acting for Stage & Screen course at Edinburgh Napier University and Queen Margaret University. Their company,Twisted Corners, is part of New Celts Productions, a collective of theatre groups from that course. The cast’s studies have clearly paid off. This is a moving and powerfully performed production.