There was an exciting vibe yesterday at the Park Theatre before the first performance of this world premiere, and it is safe to say it was enthusiastically received. Maya Sondhi’s new play has been made possible thanks to a Kickstarter campaign, and it truly is an extraordinary piece of writing. Real, funny, disarming and cruel, Sket gives the cast of seven a great opportunity to shine.
Despite being part of the generation called ‘millennials’ ourselves – surrounded by and being active users of technology and social media – we can only just understand what teenagers nowadays face in terms of their online presence, something we did not experience in such an exposed and sometimes dangerous ways. With a simple premise – three girls, three boys, a teacher – we are given a photograph of what this relationship between young people and technology is like today, with a sometimes scary level of realism.
Something this play does not lack is humour. There are many laugh-out-loud moments brought by the wittiness and loquacity of these youngsters, even though the deeper layer of the narrative is quite simply heartbreaking. Being fourteen and facing the circumstances seen throughout the play – sexual abuse, domestic violence – is a hard reality that many live, and despite the boldness of the writing there was is respect and a dignity to every scene that is disarming. The whole cast is outstanding, particularly Tessie Orange-Turner as Tamika and Tom Ratcliffe as JC, who are not only utterly believable but deliver the most touching moments of the evening. Anna O’Grady plays the only adult character, Miss, who witnesses with horror and powerlessness what her students are up to (through their comments while on detention) with command and tenderness.
It is true, however, that the play finishes in a somewhat unresolved manner. We are given a piece, a snap of what these students’ lives are like, of their problems and the dangers they face. It is brutal at times, showing how sexual violence can become part of daily life, and it finishes without giving the audience the satisfaction of an ending. Sexting, harassment, revenge and violence are all present, but also hope and friendship, through the eyes of young people that are becoming adults too soon.
With a razor-sharp, witty and powerful script, Sket is a little gem of a play that is funny, touching and relevant. Despite its content, it should be shown in schools and talked about: it could be a tool to help teenagers understand the world they live in.
Sket is playing at the Park Theatre until 14 May. For more information and tickets, see the Park Theatre website. Photo: Pete Le May