Swing By Around 8, Theatre N16

Nailing that first job after drama school can be daunting. You are no longer competing for roles with a small collection of peers, you are bidding for work in an environment where literally everyone has more experience than you. There are unwritten rules, cultural differences and a lack of support to learn to deal with. It’s hard going, especially when most of these early-career jobs are unpaid. No wonder so many emerging artists give up within their first few years out of training.

Theatre N16 wants to combat that. They recently launched its First Credit scheme where four actors and two directors are provided the opportunity to gain their first professional credit after completing their training. Jess Bray’s sexual sitcom of a play Swing By Around 8 is brought to life by actors Paul Boichat, Rebecca Drake, Maanuv Thiara and Maisie Black, with direction by Amy Hendry and Ellie Gauge.

Bray’s script verges on farce, with clear television influences. The two-couple character comedy is reminiscent of The ‘Big Bang Theory’ and ‘Friends’, but much less PG. There’s plenty of good one-liners and gags about group sex, though the characters lack depth. It’s great for young actors looking to develop their comic timing, but a shame they don’t have the chance to get stuck into something meatier.

The four actors are pretty evenly matched, though Paul Boichat as Elliot is marginally stronger with a charismatic presence and more nuance. Hendry and Gauge share the directing well; there is a unified style and approach to the characterisation. Some moments of high tension tend towards hammy, but the comedy is well delivered.

This is a solid effort all around from these young creatives, and N16’s commitment to grant them exposure is highly commendable. The First Credit programme is certainly one to follow for new talent, and the selection process is no doubt rigorous – though a more substantial script would certainly serve them better.

Swing By Around 8 runs through 1 December.

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