Luke Barnes is certainly proving that his writing talent is on top form at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival. He has two plays running: the first is the fantastic Bottleneck presented by HighTide Festival and the second is the equally engrossing Chapel Street as part of the Old Vic New Voices Edinburgh Season and presented by SCRAWL. Joe, a twenty-five year old unemployed lad, is ready for a night on the town, whilst Kirsty, a fourteen year old school girl, is preparing for a night out with the girls to celebrate her friend’s birthday. Joe dreams of the next pussy to get into, whilst Kirsty dreams of getting noticed and going to university. They couldn’t be more apart – that is until they meet on a Friday night on Chapel Street.
Full of humourous stories and anecdotes of youthful life, Chapel Street presents two young things with different outlooks on life trying to have fun. Full of sparky energy and lovable characters, you can’t help but enjoy the ride that Barnes takes you on. Cary Crankson as the boyish Joe and Ria Zmitrowicz as Kirsty are superb at relaying their stories, their lines interjecting across each other as they steadily get more drunk and seek the opposite sex to play with. Only it’s not all about showing the drunken stumbles of boy and girl – there’s a strong message from Barnes on staying true to who you are and what you believe in.
Many plays at the moment depict the down-and-out youth of today as they have doors slammed in their faces, and whilst there is an element of this in the character of Joe, it is Kirsty who prevails against all the crap that is thrown at her. It doesn’t matter that her teachers want her to fail or the guidance counciler thinks nursing would suit her better than psychology – by the end of Chapel Street anything is possible. Barnes wraps this all nicely within the snappy dialogue that bounces between Joe and Kirsty as they each tell their stories, the two interlocking and mixing with the vomit and sex and everything in between, becoming one giant mishmash of youthfulness. Barnes text is particularly sharp and under the direction of Cheryl Gallagher Chapel Street packs a punch.
There is something within Crankson’s and Zmitrowicz’s performances that make them engrossing to watch. We get caught within their stories, and whilst we might feel repulsed by Crankson’s Joe or feel sorry for the slightly dim Kirsty, the characters are compelling. In Bottleneck Barnes proved that he could write with poise and poignancy, in Chapel Street he shows his wit and humour. If anything is clear, Barnes is a young playwright bursting with talent and as a co-founder of SCRAWL, we might just start seeing more of his writing and youthfulness popping up. Don’t miss it.
**** – 4/5 stars
Chapel Street is playing at Underbelly as part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival until 27August. For more information and tickets, see the Edinburgh Fringe website.