Kae Tempest’s credentials as a poet and lyricist shine through in Wasted at the Jack Studio. This is a very impressive first outing for MICA Theatre, a new company whose initials stand for Matters I Care About. Combined with sensitive direction from Toby Clarke they show considerable maturity in handling the text that needs to be delivered with skill as it moves between chorus-like verse and naturalism.
A bold, forthright and challenging production
Tony (Ruaridh Mollica) sits at the rear of the stage, his guitar leaning against the wall. He’s clearly very attached to it. He touches it fondly as the light shining across his body casts a shadow to his left, over which he runs his hands. His fingers turn to the lead that he places on the speaker, then to a string. It’s all done with considerable feeling and an air of mystery against a background of haunting sounds. Will he pick up the guitar and break into song? That’s what he used to do. That is what his life revolved around; that and the drug-fuelled party scene; but now he’s dead, and all that is behind him. His mates have gathered to commemorate his passing and over the course of two days they reflect upon their past, the times they spent with Tony and consider what the future might hold for them. Meanwhile Mollica hauntingly moces around the action, sometimes with interjections before beautifully delivering his closing toughts that send us on out journey.
They’re in their mid 20’s now and while they still manage to party on a fairly grand scale, the questioning about how they live their lives, what they want from life and what they might become has started. Reality is beginning to hit home and brings with it a certain amount of turmoil. We are allowed in to observe their world after an opening direct address that questions what we are doing there, suggesting that it might just be a waste of our time. It turns out not to be, for by entering into their lives we are able to reflect upon our own and ask ourselves the questions they are contemplating.
Danny (Ted Reilly) is the one furthest down the path to hell and he is riddled with the good intentions that got him there. Reilly captivatingly portrays the angst of a young man who is always going to change, reform, become a better person and give up all the bad habits he has developed over the years, including a lack of honesty in dealing with people. Those things always seem to be happening tomorrow; for now he’ll just pop another pill or snort another line. This leaves girlfriend Charlotte (Isabella Verrico) endlessly frustrated. Verrico captures her turmoil and frustration. Is Danny worth working for, sacrificing for or will she ultimately have wasted her time? And what of her work, her career? Where should that go? Can she face ending up like all the ageing, moaning and depressed colleagues who fill the staffroom? Is she capable of going through with a big decision that could change her life and give her a new future? Meanwhile, Temi (Seraphina Beh) is somewhere between the two. Beh gives a powerfully imposing performance as the confidante who is not afraid to dish out the truth and come up with advice. She’s almost respectably settled. She reluctantly goes to IKEA with her girlfriend, because it will make her partner happy and she has dreams of a business, but is still prepared to join Danny on a bender.
Wasted is a bold, forthright and challenging production has excellent chemistry between the cast members and credibility in all they say. Lighting Designer Pablo Fernandez Baz produces some buzzing disco moments contrasted with moody darker tones for the more reflective scenes and Composer Rupert Cross matches the sound admirably. The team and Stage Manager TJ Roderick put the staging and costumes together and manage the drum set which has a fascinating journey of its own around the stage as it is taken apart, reconstructed, used as a table and even played.
Wasted premiered eleven years ago when later millennials were hitting the scene and it’s very much of that time. By now they have grown up and a sequel to this play would prove fascinating. That generation has largely settled into careers and family life far removed from the wild excesses in which they formerly indulged. The questions our characters asked and the issues they faced, however, are relatively timeless, making Wasted a play that will always hold a degree of fascination and relevance.