Look Who’s All Grown Up is an impressive piece of new writing by Abigail Chandler, performed at The Space in East London. It tracks the progression of two actors who are negotiating the transition from child actors to legitimate Hollywood stars. Not only does it track the burgeoning relationship between the actors, but dives headfirst into the huge issue of sexual abuse in the film industry. The writing is impressive and it felt new seeing the aforementioned issues explored on stage, as they are so bound up in the television and film industry.
The supporting actors truly make the production, all appearing as polished and wholly fleshed out characters. Shereener Browne’s performance really stands out, whilst only appearing in a few scenes, she is reliably assured and refreshingly funny as Julia, Caitlyn’s ‘momager’. Daniel Bravo also takes on the huge task of appearing as a lovable, famous teenage actor on a downward spiral. To play the part with such perfect nonchalance and charisma is no mean feat and I was utterly convinced of the character’s star status. I was disappointed in the decision to direct Caitlyn, who struggles with anxiety and is recently recovered from a psychotic episode, as a constant ball of anxiety that was totally lacking in nuance. It was a disservice to the play’s thoughtful discussion of mental health and was tedious to watch. Kalifa Taylor delivered nearly every single line with a nervous laugh and unfortunately I was completely driven to distraction by her performance, which is an unfortunate position for the lead role of the play.
Chandler’s writing deftly plays with the inextricable link between Hollywood and sexual abuse. Bravo’s character, Felix, constantly jokes about ‘statutory rape’ and being ‘accidentally paedophiled’ in a jarring way that makes me squirm in my seat. The writing mostly focuses on the abuse that young men can be subject to in this industry, as we see that Felix has experienced it at many different points in his career. A sleazy hotshot producer character, played oh-so smoothly by Stephanie Pezolano, tells Felix, ’I’ll meet you in my room’ to discuss a work opportunity with him. The line rings in our ears as one of Harvey Weinstein’s commonly used tactics and reminds us that any person in this industry can be vulnerable to abuse. Felix, painted one-dimensionally by the press as a bad boy sex symbol, insists that ‘I got the role and I got laid’ and ‘I’m not a victim, I’m an asshole’, when discussing his own sexual misbehaviour. Chandler succinctly distills the inner turmoil that men can experience when society’s idea of masculinity is violated by their sexual abuse.
The issues the play outlines are incredibly worthy of discussion and I only wish it had streamlined its discussion a little more as the focus on Caitlyn’s mental health seemed rather irrelevant by the conclusion. Played and staged incredibly naturalistically, an additional stylistic element would have added further interest and taken advantage of the theatrical format, as most of the play simply relies on duologue. However, Look Who’s All Grown Up is a very accomplished piece of new writing about a much-discussed topic, now done in a thoughtful and acerbic way.
Look Who’s All Grown Up played at The Space until 19th June 2021. For more information, see The Space’s website.