Writer/Director Ben Reid has made a stunning professional debut at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre, Kentish Town, with his play Two Worlds No Family, originally written as his final year dissertation piece at Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts, where it had an in-house run.
an outstanding cast...socially relevant and original
Upon graduation Reid formed Draft99 Theatre, with fellow student Tom Plenderleith. The company aims to ‘focus on stories that show the journey of relationships’, and that is precisely what this production does. Reid based the work on a true story of a young man with mental health issues, but he has transformed it into a fast-paced, dynamic exploration of hidden issues and public image in the context of a recognisable friendship group and social setting. He is blessed with a cast that without exception crafts each role into a credible character and that provides another real joy; they all have excellent enunciation and projection, at a time when so many actors seem to mumble and have poor delivery.
The mysterious H (Anthony Fletcher) sits alone on the stage silently reading from a piece of crumpled paper. Its significance will not be revealed until the end, along with his identity;a technique that gives a rounded structure to this carefully crafted play. For now, H remains just a haunting presence on the stage, who occasionally pops into the action and determines when a scene will change. Fletcher creates a distant character always seemingly set apart from the others no matter what the setting. Then, with the click of a finger, he changes the somber opening mood; lights blaze and Abba blasts out Money, Money, Money. This is no randomly chosen piece of disco music. The lyrics establish the issues that Ollie (Cameron Percival) is facing in his everyday life: ‘I work all night, I work all day to pay the bills I have to pay./ Ain't it sad?/ And still there never seems to be a single penny left for me/ That's too bad/ In my dreams I have a plan/ If I got me a wealthy man/ I wouldn't have to work at all, I'd fool around and have a ball'.
Percival exerts a powerful presence and is a striking figure whose outward bravura and confidence on the hedonistic scene belie his inner turmoils and the practical difficulties Ollie has with money. Andrew Rolfe as The Man creates the perfect contrast as a chillingly exploitative yet successful financier whose wealth brings Ollie under his control. This is the world that Ollie keeps secret and hidden from his friends Kat (Amy Kitts) and Tyler (Tom Plenderleith). Kitts gives a fabulously powerful performance as the dominant woman who stands her ground and is not afraid to be open and blunt in her dealings with others. Plenderlith, appropriately plays the more understated yet earnest guy trying to be a best friend to Ollie and dutiful boyfriend to Kat.Together they are the two people to whom Ollie should have turned for help, but that highlights the fact that so often people who struggle with mental health issues do not actually discuss them or talk about them, even with their closest friends, for fear of being a burden.
Reid has gathered an outstanding cast and he’s clearly multi-talented having also done his own well-devised sound design. He’s been assisted by Luke Sharman who designed the simple yet versatile set that is easily adapted to create the various scenes, and who was also in charge of costumes, all of which befitted the characters. Kat’s black dress was particularly stunning and suited her so well.
There might be some minor tweaking to do, but everyone involved in this production should be immensely proud of their achievements. They are people to look out for and let’s hope this company can continue to pour out more socially relevant and original works that, like this one, avoid the pitfalls of clichéd drama.