I and You kicks off with lots of yelling. A teenage boy called Anthony walks into his classmate’s bedroom clasping cookies, waffle fries and a homework assignment. He is not happy, but rather shocked and scornful. The girl, Caroline, seems ridiculously irritated. As the actors relax into their characters, you instantly feel like you’re watching an American teen romance.
Lauren Gunderson, one of the most performed playwrights in America (aside from Shakespeare), gives us the portrayal of youth and friendship with underlying wit. There’s the discussion of the pronouns in Leaves of Grass that is the subject of their English Lit assignment. Anthony played by Zack Wyatt and Caroline played by Maisie Williams, get to know each other by discussing their own personal hobbies – jazz, photography and their hopes and dreams. This is all tiptoeing around that fact that Caroline is on the waiting list for a liver transplant. Something she doesn’t like talking about as it perhaps means she may not have a future. The chemistry between the two characters blossoms and we see they like ‘like’ each other.
Williams and Wyatt give both engaging and believable teenage portrayals. He nicely captures the awkwardness and angst of most teenage boys, whilst she can flight between being bolshie and vulnerable within moments. Gunderson’s relevant commentary on today’s youth not being able to tear themselves away from their phones is prominent, although here we see Caroline is in fact missing out on everything due to her ill health.
Edward Hall’s direction is superb, showing a vivid character journeys throughout the action. However at times it does drag due to the nature of a single set with the action occurring in one act. As an audience member you are waiting for something to happen and eventually it does. No spoilers though, avoid them at all costs.
The set design is spectacular. Michael Pavelka brings us into Caroline’s world with her messy, colourful and expressive bedroom and smashes the spectacular finale. A surprising ending that you won’t see coming that will make your heart sink and give you goosebumps.
I and You is playing at Hampstead theatre until 18 November 2018. For more information and tickets, see here.