a definite shift in the second play in this double bill from Edinburgh-based
theatre company Strange Town. This time round playwright Alan Gordon has worked
with some of the company’s oldest, most experienced performers; surely this
explains why the focus has moved on from the school days seen in
There is a brusque confidence in both the script and the performances, in which numerous relationships – familial, social and sexual – are stretched and twisted into new forms.
“This is a story about people who make choices,” we’re told, somewhat ominously, as a cast of 20 delineate themselves into the 11 main characters and a chorus who frequently double up as supporting characters – while also helping keep the narrative going at a fair pace while explaining why certain dramatic choices have been made. (We’re told, for example, that cast members will not attempt any East European accents, as they would verge on being xenophobic.)
There is a brusque confidence in both the script and the performances, in which numerous relationships – familial, social and sexual – are stretched and twisted into new forms. Arguably, you could make a list of the issues being raised here – not least what it means to be men and women in the 21st century, and how we’re supposed to relate to each other now that the “traditional” gender role models are breaking down. “We don’t just have to be one thing any more,” one character insists, on revealing that he’s slept with a guy as well as girls. “I don’t know how to be a man anymore,” his best friend says in return. All of this comes with a caveat, of course: “Change is scary,” we’re told – and that, perhaps, is the clearest thematic link with What Next?
Importantly, there’s a real sense that these issues arise from the interactions of the all-too-believable characters on stage, rather than being imposed on proceedings by the writer. The cast also have a real commitment to their characters; yes, a few members still need to better project their voices against the production’s soundscape, but overall this was a remarkably professional production. Director Amy Watt should be congratulated for using the minimal resources at her disposal – the “set” is no more than some foldable chairs and some luggage – to choreograph her large cast to create a show with real clarity and energy.
What Now? is not without its moments of preaching, but then that could be one of the points it’s trying to make – sometimes, like the “Smash the Patriarchy” slogans of protest girls band Kitty Punk, the next generation really have to make some noise to make their point.