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Review: Vera Vera Vera

Posted on 28 March 2012 by Jake Orr

Vera Vera Vera, Royal Court Theatre

Hayley Squires’s debut play Vera Vera Vera, part of the Royal Court’s Young Writers Festival, is about the grief and hope that arises when a young solider, Bobby, is shot whilst fighting for his country.

On the day of his funeral, Bobby’s siblings Emily (Danielle Fleet) and Danny (Tommy McDonnell) fight furiously over how their brother should be remembered. With anecdotes about drugs and racial hatred, it is the pent up anger of Danny that spills across the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs stage. Emily claws at her brother with her words and manicured nails, never making him bleed but trying nonetheless. It is Bobby’s oldest and closest friend Lee (Daniel Kendrick) who keeps the atmosphere from igniting, pleading that it’s not what Bobby would have wanted. Three months later and we see Bobby’s cousin Charlie (Abby Rakic-Platt) haphazardly flirting with her classmate Sammy (Ted Riley) after he fights another guy who has been insulting Charlie. Vera Vera Vera switches between these two moments, making Squires’s debut a curious treat for audiences who will laugh at the childishness of first flirtations, and have their heart dampened by lost life so young.

Whilst Vera Vera Vera isn’t disappointing for a play that manages to condense the complex emotions of someone lost at war, it doesn’t quite ignite either. The relationship between Charlie and Sammy brings about a much more stirring sense of emotions in the outstanding acting from Rakic-Platt and Riley. You can’t help but fall for their clumsy and tormented look at the world and themselves. Squires captures these heartfelt moments with precision and wit, with many a laugh-out-loud moment from some excellent directing by Jo McInnes. Yet the scenes between Emily, Danny and Lee don’t so much stir emotions as they offer the audience a brutal and blunt look at how relationships can be strained when someone young is killed. The characters feel trapped and too claustrophobic to really make them fly, and whilst there is some particularly detailed acting from Fleet and McDonnell, it’s hard to really tap into the characters.

Instead we observe them from afar, with the cold washes of Stephen Andrews’s lighting design leaving little life to be found. It’s a shame because it makes for a slightly bottom-heavy production, which doesn’t have the room to really break open the desired intentions from Squires’s writing. This is partly down to the length: 60 minutes seems too short to really get your teeth into the characters, and whilst there are heartening moments of tenderness it doesn’t inspire anything internally.

As a debut play, Vera Vera Vera is promising for Squires as a writer, and there is a certain keenness to see what she can deliver in the future, yet the real stars are the cast, especially Rakic-Platt and Riley. Their scenes of foolish tenderness captured a picture-perfect postcard of how hope can be found in the grief and torment of loss. Tender, charming and smile-inducing, Vera Vera Vera has a subtle technique for delivering its message to the audience.

Vera Vera Vera is playing at the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs at the Royal Court Theatre until 14th April. For more information and tickets see the Royal Court Website. Don’t forget that the Royal Court’s Young Writers Festival continues until 14th April.

Jake Orr

Jake Orr

Jake is the Artistic Director and Founder of A Younger Theatre. He is a freelance writer and blogger, a theatre marketer and a digital producer. He is also Co-Curator of Dialogue.

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Review: Chapel Street

Posted on 31 August 2011 by Sharlene Teo

Luke Barne’s debut play is an entertaining, snappy two-hander lent a topical resonance by recent events. The London riots have brought to fore the issue of increasingly bored and frustrated young people.

Yet it is not the rather more heavy-handed, catalytic anger of disenfranchisement which forms the central theme of Chapel Street. Rather, it is the flippant ennui which dominates the lives of young men and women, leading them to perpetuate a culture of binge-drinking and casual sexual encounters – sometimes, with lasting consequences.

It’s not unintentional that the above paragraph sounds a bit like a public service announcement promoting responsible drinking. Charismatic performances, clever direction by Cheryl Gallacher and a strong, incisive script are somewhat let down by a predictable ending which felt a little like a preachy cop-out. All the same, there’s a lot of enjoyment to be had along the way.

Ria Zmitrowicz rises to the challenge of portraying Kirsty, convincingly inhabiting the role of a 15-year-old girl with all its attendant attributes: a coquettish, clumsy sexuality, giddy excitement and misguided naivety. Daniel Kendrick gets argubly the easier of the two roles and also the funniest lines as 20-something freewheeler Joe – but he imbues his mouthy, laddish character with a jocular sense of despair and nihilistic unease. The commitment and intelligence which both actors bring to their roles keep Joe and Kirsty from descending into caricature.

The dialogue is natural and humorous, although I found some of the interjections and overlaps slightly jarring at times. Nonetheless, Barnes has a flair for building up convincing, engaging idiolect interspersed with memorable asides which lend his characters a depth and pathos. He has a shrewd eye for the personal observations and rationalisations we make about our surroundings and the everyday – such as Joe’s utterance that other people criticising him for living with his parents are just jealous that they have to do their own laundry and cooking. I’d be keen to see more from this promising playwright.

Sharlene Teo

Sharlene Teo

Sharlene is a writer, editor, reviewer and perpetually hungry person.

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