Year Ten

Never judge a play by its title. Year Ten conjured up images of yet another dreadful classroom drama of teenage hang-ups, shallow love stories and endless texting. Nothing could be further from the truth in this hard-hitting, action-packed tale of aggression and tenderness.

A whistle should be blown outside the theatre to summon all talents scouts to his sublime performance

There’s nothing particularly original in the storyline. Jack’s parents are separated and he lives with his mother who is on antidepressants. He moves to a new school where he is partially befriended by one lad but falls victim to the onslaughts of the school bully. There is a girl in whom he finds solace and their relationship develops. For the ending you will have to buy a ticket.

Holly Reynolds as the mother makes a valiant attempt to portray the suffering she has clearly been through, her inability to handle situations and the embarrassment she suffers with an air of semi-bravado. The only other female is a very different sort of person. Dylan Morris manages to capture the many facets of schoolgirl Jamie. Regarded by some as the school slag she falls victim to bullies but puts up a fight. Underneath the harsh exterior of survival is a much softer person.

Mr Vickery does his best to help Jack, but his best turns out to be just not good enough. Alex Millan tries to overcome his extremely youthful looks to create a convincingly sympathetic school teacher with a softly spoken manner that is in stark contrast to the vehemence of the bullies. Jack’s only hope among the boys is Ricky, who proves to be a rather ambivalent helper. Dan Fitzsimons captures the tensions within a not too bright ebullient lad who wants to befriend Jack but also keep himself safe.

John, the bully boy’s acolyte is played by Kristian Wall, who, with not too many lines, creates the tough weak boy. He’s the classic case of the guy whose defence would be that he was only following orders. With no mind of his own he zealously does as he’s told. Physically towering above the rest of the cast and filling the stage with his very fit body and menacing presence, Kyle Rowe plays Wes, the truly frightening school bully with unnerving ease; the sort of guy you would not want to meet in a dark alley. With a level of aggression that would make Bill Sykes welcome at a tea party, he instills fear into all his victims (and most likely the audience). In every respect he gives a commanding performance.

It is left to Niall Burns to be on stage for virtually the whole play as Jack. In a breathtaking tour de force Niall works his way through the gamut of emotions from whimpering wreck to invigorated fighter. He sustains his passion and intensity in all the moods he passes through, be they gentle or aggressive, subdued or irate. In his scene of greatest anger and bitterness the neck tightens, all veins become visible and his blood pressure rises to change his colour. His is a truly captivating performance. A whistle should be blown outside the theatre to summon all talents scouts to his sublime performance.

Some outstanding individual performances outweigh the overall merits of this play. They also create an imbalance among the cast, but if you want to see a couple of potentially big names of the future you’ll find them in Year Ten

Reviews by Richard Beck

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The Blurb

‘I walk to parks and stare into space... just stand there and sometimes I cry I stand with all the fruit bowls, drinking Special Brew and talking to themselves, I'm like a disappointed old man and I'm fifteen years old.’ Jack moves to a new school where he is confronted by aggression, violence and anger, but then he meets Jamie. And suddenly she makes him wish time could just slow down and stop. An emotionally charged and tender story of a year in the life of a fifteen-year-old boy.

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