Olympilads, Theatre N16

By guest critic Nastazja Somers

Andrew Maddock, the writer behind the hugely successful IN/OUT (a feeling) has a great talent for creating fully developed and multi-layered characters that don’t come from privileged backgrounds. Not often enough do we see stories of working class people explored beyond the mundane on stage. Directed by Niall Phillips, OLYMPILADS, Maddock’s new play is set in Wembley during the 2012 Olympics. It examines the lives of three siblings, all of whom dream about running away from their fears.

Darren (Nebiu Samuel) needs new trainers. He is going to beat Usain Bolt, there is no doubt about it. This is his chance to show everyone that all his years of training have not gone to waste. In the meantime his brother Sim (Rhys Yates) reaches out to their estranged sister Abi (Michelle Barwood) to seek reconciliation and help before Darren’s mental health issues become too much too handle. 

The cast of three fully inhabit the world of the play and all of them deliver outstanding performances, but it is Barwood who, with both her vulnerability and the ability of living truthfully in the moment, creates a fully fleshed out character. Unfortunately the set design, a running track, does not help the actors in any way. The direction is not specific enough to carry them through the scene transitions. 

Maddock serves a lot of weighty material to his audiences in this short piece, which runs just under an hour. Fast-paced, dialogue-focused OLYMPILADS has the potential of being a slick production, but there are many too moments that are brushed over and not given enough direction. The main subject of the piece, Darren’s mental health issues, does not receive the attention it needs. OLYMPILADS could benefit from more rehearsal and development in terms of production quality.

OLYMPILADS runs through 26 August.

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