Adapted by youth theatre specialists, Company of Angels, from Richard Milward’s hugely successful novel of the same title, Apples is an outstanding example of theatre created by young people for young people.
Set in a suburban Garden of Eden, ‘apples’ are the ecstasy pills taken by the fifteen year old Eve and her wayward schoolmates that the obsessive compulsive, loner Adam are yet to taste. The world of the play convincingly depicts a generation of under-agers, living for the transient thrills of sex, drink and drugs in an attempt to blot out, rather than come to terms with the problematic aspects of their lives. Each character has to deal with their own trauma; Eve’s mother is dying of lung cancer; Debbie finds herself pregnant following rape; Adam’s father only relates to him through violence.
In the director’s note that accompanies the performance, John Retallack states, ‘Apples is a story about young people who are bringing themselves up. For different reasons, they have to make up their own lives.’ Adults in general and parents in particular are notably absent in the play to the point of neglect and we begin to see why it is unsurprising that the protagonists both try and fail to be adult (friends, lovers, mothers) themselves.
Yet the portrayal of these teenagers is not done as it so often, condescendingly, is. The poetic language of the everyday so accurately rendered in the script and so brilliantly voiced by the actors, allows the play to really communicate with its younger audience and educate the older among it. The reason for this? The language is real. Not the patronising ‘I’m down with the kids’ patois, adopted by some balding, middle-aged playwright in an attempt to warn us off sinful delights. Milward was but 20 years old when he penned the novel and he assisted the director with the stage adaptation.
On a minimalist stage that gave away the touring nature of the piece, the movement was tightly blocked and the performance of a stellar cast was so truthful that at times it was almost painful to watch. Special mention has to go to Scott Turnball whose affectionate portrayal of Adam has a gift for making you laugh and then cry in one fell swoop and Jade Byrne, who so absolutely embodied the hard-nosed ‘accidently on purpose’ teen mum, Claire, that even during the applause she physically made me flinch.
Newly appointed as the ‘Skins’ for the stage, Apples with its sex, drugs and drum and bass failed to disappoint; simultaneously brutal and beautiful it is, as the character Gary describes his women, ‘f***ing nectar’.
Apples is currently on tour throughout the UK and is showing at Latitude Festival 16-17th July and later at the Edinburgh Fringe 10-28th August. For more information see the production website: www.applestheplay.co.uk