by Diana Miranda
A group of friends gets ready for the party of a lifetime once their exams are over. The occasion calls for the opportunity to dress up, drink up, and get carried away by summer plans as the stepping stone for the future. The party scales up, and they end up breaking into their school. Blackout. Not the theatre kind. The drunk kind.
Next thing we know, they’re all together again at the park with orange jumpsuits and litter pickers, except for the one that left early. And except for the fact that they are not ‘together’ anymore. What follows is a scene that lasts for most of the show in which the group grudgingly discusses their summer and pick up rubbish. Community service in a working-class neighbourhood in Scotland is not the future they expected.
Written by Rachel O’Regan and directed by Hanna McEachern, this F-Bomb Theatre piece greets the audience with upbeat music that sets the atmosphere for a fun night out. However, the vitality doesn’t seem to linger beyond the show’s first minutes, and there is room to infuse the staging with more dynamism to further engage the audience with the action in the park.
The text is coloured with well-outlined characters, each marked with their own singularity: she who dreams of London; she who dreams of staying and building a family; she who dreams of Oxford; and so on. By unravelling their stories, the piece tackles maturity and ambition as if seen through a kaleidoscope. Depending on whose position you take, the perspective will be different.
Lexi (Sally Cairns) lands as the leading character. The story frames her as a sort of head of the gang, even when she works silently spreading both frustration and litter in the park, unaware of the hole in her rubbish bag. Her ambition surpasses the others’ and is an energy source that eventually detonates, challenging their comfort zones.
Linzi Devers’ authentic performance makes Jess’ pastel colours shine bright in the show’s kaleidoscope. Her input is subtle, but her naivety comes across decisively and leaves a trace of sweetness and warmth. The rest of the performances have an estranging quality; there is a sense of watching actors rather than characters. The show would be made richer by assimilating the inner roulette underscoring each character in order to portray the singularity of their struggles more truthfully. Nonetheless, the audience grasps the underlying motivations in each role, thanks to the script. As the gang’s conversation becomes heated, the cast manages to add vibrancy to the exposure of such motivations. It is during these moments that the performances seem sincere and powerful.
It is a strange feeling to clap after a show when the ensemble tells the audience off right before the final blackout, flashing their middle fingers with aggressive defiance. That split second of shock before the clapping begins reiterates the fact that, throughout everything, the cast’s most fierce, intense moments will leave a mark in the venue. As an all-woman company, F-Bomb comes as unapologetically assertive.
Afterparty runs through August 28.
The Play’s the Thing UK is committed to covering fringe and progressive theatre in London and beyond. It is run entirely voluntarily and needs regular support to ensure its survival. For more information and to help The Play’s the Thing UK provide coverage of the theatre that needs reviews the most, visit its patreon.