As Shane (James Cartwright) struts about the bare stage in his finest keks, the overarching theme of his actions, his words, is the need to feel alive. He describes the lead up to and the events of his Friday night with a viscerality and sensuality that highlights the craving for more that has Shane and his friends lining their pockets with drugs, out on the town. Written by one of the UK’s most successful dramatists, Jim Cartwright, Raz takes its premiere in a lecture hall at the Edinburgh Fringe.
With Raz, Jim Cartwright has nailed the mood of a night out in the north of England in an empathetic exploration of weekend escapism. There’s a constant sense of motion; that Shane is on a pilgrimage in search of euphoria. He can’t remain still, connecting with the ever changing faces and locations of the evening as soon as they appear. Anthony Banks’ direction is a little unclear, though. Shane mimes all props bar his phone – a permanent fixture to his costume – and inexplicably, a gym ball representing a taxi ride. Transitions between scenes don’t always feel cohesive, though scenes themselves are carefully crafted.
Banks has James Cartwright dancing, embodying a cabbie and his disinterested passengers; all performed by Shane to his waiting audience. Shane’s perspective frames the evening. We see through him his mother (“Should I make you beans on toast? Or a chucky egg?”), his acquaintances and antagonists. The playwright’s eye for colloquialisms and nuances of character is on display to an expert degree here. In fact, the colloquialisms are enough to divide the room – an American audience member near me whispered, “What the fuck is a ginnel?!” at one point. Nobody’s coming out of the woodwork with perfectly articulated soliloquies; Raz has a distinct authenticity to it.
Raz sees a beauty and meaning in events touted by the tabloids as signs of social disintegration, as low cultural value. Cartwright has captured the tone of twenty first century Britain with this genuine, amusing exploration into a night on the raz.
Raz is playing at Assembly George Square (Venue 17) until 31 August (no performance on 24) as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. For more information, visit the Edinburgh Fringe website.