FCUK’D – the debut play from writer Niall Ransome – is a lament to Britain’s working class men. The unnamed protagonist who addresses the audience in poetic monologue is a Boy, who has been repressed and failed, and now forced to extreme action in order to protect the person he cares most about in the world.
This Boy wants a better life, a life with “parents who are actually there”, and without the looming threat of social services who may or may not take away his younger brother Matty. Kidnapping his younger brother may not be the right answer, but for this neglected young man, whose addict mother has led to the coming loss of his brother, it seems like the only option.
Willy Mytum puts in an exceptionally emotive performance as our Boy. There is not a moment of doubt; Mytum has you in the palm of his hand, or rather his glistening, tear-brimming blue eyes. Every movement and breath somehow conjures up and embodies this Boy that we will sadly all too quickly recognize, and hints to bright things in his acting future.
Ransome’s verse itself is subtle, and thankfully doesn’t overdo it so that FCUK’D miraculously dodges the seemingly unavoidable bullet of being defined by its own form, or being negatively compared to Kate Tempest. It may not reach Tempest’s heady heights of rhythmic narrative (there I did it), but the softly building rhythm that the verse does drive reflects the gradual unravelling of Boy’s life, and his subsequent plan to fix it.
Admittedly some lines feel a little forced – a reference to people “crushing candies” feels a little passé – but that shouldn’t take away from this feat of writing, where the constant verse manages to neither overwhelm, nor fall flat.
A mention must go to Grace Venning’s flawless set which places us in the school playground where the foundations of failure for so many begin, and Jess Bernberg’s magnificent use of light, notably the effect created to suggest the distant flickering of a car on fire. Both seem simple, but for a play and venue of this size, Venning and Bernberg’s respective designs leave a mark.
That said, despite Mytum’s outstanding performance and the impressive production, FCUK’D feels like it treads too much on old ground. This isn’t a new narrative. At one moment Boy declares, “This is England”, and I just wonder if Brexit England, while still looking to the past, has other stories to tell.
FCUK’D is playing at The Bunker Theatre until 30 December 2017
Photo: Andreas Lambis