As an avid fan of the Finborough Theatre, I was delighted to return and see it once again transformed. The black box has taken on a brand new form, this time giving a home to the European premiere of Velocity by the Canadian playwright Daniel Macdonald. Designed by Ella-Marie Fowler, giant chalkboard walls hang from the ceiling, the mathematical markings extending to the floor.
Rosie Day plays Dot, a 15-year-old who is searching for excitement beyond her boundaries, and for answers both on and off the pages of her science book. The play immediately plugs our senses into Dot’s imagination, as she plans to explode her father out of his office building for her science project.
She talks to us directly, introducing her mother, her father, her boyfriend and her friends. All in six seconds. Sounds impossible? Certainly not. Macdonald’s writing pulls our subconsciousness back to the inevitable adolescent idiosyncrasies that we’ve all felt when trying to work out where we fit, who we are, and what we feel about people. These moments are drawn out, much like the years in which we grow up (into the slightly older versions of ourselves who are still questioning everything).
Detailed direction by Blythe Stewart give us moments through a physical score that the actors repeat or continue to create as we watch. Nicholas Cass-Beggs plays the father of Dot. The majority of his time onstage is spent in the the very significant time snatch that is him falling from his tower block office. Throughout his challenging and repetitive slow-motion flailing of limbs, Cass-Beggs remains true to his objective, whether it is to seal the deal with his business partner, or to scream at his daughter to not talk about her newly coined sexual endeavours.
Macdonald’s scenes gift the actresses Day and Helene Wilson (playing her mother Laura), with the opportunity to display the sometimes turbulent and often estranged relationship of a mother and her rebellious teenage daughter. We watch the interactions through Dot’s bold and unwavering interpretation of the adults who document her life. This in turn gifts the audience, as exaggeration and sarcasm are worn with elegance and delivered to the perfect second, every time, by Wilson.
Waleed Akhtar, Sion Alun Davies and Siu-See Hung encapsulate the delightful naivety that’s worn on youth in a size far too big, and a colour far too loud, (all of us recognise it from experience, of course!). A highlight would be Hung’s ‘twerk to flirt’ greeting to the boy she likes.
Akhtar and Davies are underscored as they dance and gyrate whenever possible, throwing hyperbole around as frequently as they are able to, as it should be when you’re a teen. Akhtar’s full-throttle presence has the audience bursting at the sides, he has us enraptured, a stand-out moment being when he completely changes direction in mood and intention, silencing the space.
Davies portrays the more sensitive young man, needing help but unsure how to vocalise it. Davies allows for the story to unfold beautifully, leading to a significant event that changes Dot, shaking her back to the present moment.
This play has not one hook to hang logic or judgement on, with the exemption of the scientific content. Day plays Dot with truth and ease. Favourites for me would be the still seconds when I see her breath drop down to her belly, her big eyes full of her special hopes, and on the flipside, the not so brilliant realisations of ‘adult life’.
Velocity is an intricate and innovative high that theatre-goers should definitely experience – a fresh breath of air that we are all far too familiar with, if we let go for long enough!
Velocity runs at the Finborough Theatre on Sundays, Mondays and Tuesdays until the 13th May. For more information and tickets, see the Finborough Theatre website.