Review: The Wave / (This Isn't) A True Story, Almeida Theatre

Young theatre is a joyous and valuable experience and The Almeida Young Company brings together performers aged between 14-25. They meet every week to discuss acting, writing and devising techniques which eventually culminate in to two shows. 

Both the 14-18s and 18-25s put on well rehearsed and enjoyable plays tackling the impact of how and what we believe as a society and the consequences this has on those around us. Although the storytelling techniques lack subtlety, all performers give impressive and honest performances and there is no doubt they all have promising and exciting futures to look forward to.

First up are the 14-18 year olds performing The Wave, written by Molly Taylor (whose other play What Was Left is currently playing at Southwark Playhouse), and directed by Roberta Zuric.

The story is based upon the true experiment created by a Californian high school history teacher, in which, after failing to explain to his students how the German population could claim ignorance towards the holocaust, he attempted more drastic, experimental measures. Involving the students in a new project, the teacher (impressively played by Ian Cameron)  gradually brings the class together, asking them to work as a collective and to believe in something they created which was bigger than the individual. Incredibly the students took to their new bond instantly and quickly began shunning opposition and threatening anyone who did not fall in line with their ideals.

The play is perfect in allowing all the performers to have meaningful, individual roles where they can all shine as unique students. All the actors deserve a mention but Rwaan Asde, Jasmine Elcock and Jake Turner stand out from the rest.

Overall the production is poignant and powerful, leaving real food for thought. And what is most enjoyable is seeing the actors post show celebrating and congratulating one another on their fantastic performances. 

After a short break, we are welcomed back into the hall to watch the 18-25s perform (This Isn’t) A True Story. The message of this production couldn’t be clearer. With a lack of trust spreading throughout the world towards politicians, companies and states, Nina Segal‘s play really wants us to know that we can’t be sure what is true.

The idea certainly has value. There’s no denying that due to technology everyone has the power to become an expert and claim fiction as fact, or vice versa. Conspiracies are impossible to deny and there’s no doubt that our governments lie to us. 

However, the painfully on-the-nose attempt at forever reminding us that what we are watching – a small American town in the 70s – is not real, and that we are in fact in a hot room in north London, quickly loses effect and takes away so much from the show.

Theatre’s greatest power is subtly telling us valuable stories that stick with us once we leave and force us to break down and consider the importance of the message on offer. (This Isn’t) A True Story sucks all the power away from the audience and the play feels more like a year nine assembly on how to deal with fake news rather than an evening at the theatre.

In spite of this, the performers do a great job at bringing comedy and versatility to their performances. Most of the actors have an opportunity to play the rookie cop Ted who entered this small American town determined to discover what was wrong. 

The group are at their best during their choreographed dancing, directed by Joseph Hancock as their boogy with style in their 1970s attire.

Overall the group make a good attempt at shining a light on an extremely important message within society; however, the play itself isn’t the best tool to portray it.

Finally, the Almeida Young Company is an excellent ensemble that has created two shows with over thirty impressive performers. There’s no doubt we’ll see more of them in the future and this is just one small step in what everyone hopes will be enjoyable and successful careers.

The Wave and (This Isn’t) A True Story played the Almeida Theatre until 25 July. For more information, see the Almeida Theatre website.