Friday, August 17, 2012

Chapel Street: An Unexpected Friday Night

"Fuck tomorrow" is the rallying cry of two young lost souls in modern Britain.  I saw a lot of monologue driven works at Edinburgh this year but the two characters who came to life in Luke Barnes's Chapel Street made me sit up and take notice.

This play is part of the Old Vic New Voices Edinburgh season and is produced by Scrawl.  It contained incisive performances by Cary Crankson and Ria Zmitrowicz which illuminate Barnes's crackling script.  Directed by Cheryl Gallacher, the two-hander starts out with the actors standing at microphones telling us about their lives, their stations, their hopes and aspirations and then slowly as the two stories intersect Gallacher increases the action and the props and space are used to great effect.

Joe is a twenty-something who lives at home with his mother but as he points out in his world "no one's got a job, everyone lives with their mum."  His buddy has just come home from Afghanistan and Joe's looking to "live tonight like it's our last."  Kirsty is a school girl who gets dolled up for a night out with her friend Jemma.  She wants out of this town even if no one believes she can do it.  At 14 she's already realized that "in this town, it's not okay to try."  But one Friday night they both decide to go out and "get fucked up."

I feel like every time I am in the UK there is a report on television about young people, binge-drinking and wild weekend nights on the streets of cities all over the country.  This play presents the story behind the story and tells us what's going on in the mind of at least two young people caught up in that world of dirty pubs, underage drinking, chavs, pervs and Red Bull.  Everything comes to us through their eyes, with all the contradictions, bravado, and heartbreak inherent in it. 

The writing and performances were so sharp that there was not a moment in this play that I did not believe in the authenticity of these characters.  Fully-realized and birthed on stage, from the opening scenes I wanted to know them and I wanted to know what their stories were.  Like Kenneth Lonergan's This is Our Youth, sometimes a play comes along that grabs you and gives unique voices to young people, their problems, their dreams, their hopes and their tragedies.  What's remarkable about this work is that every moment of this play felt new, fresh and exciting.  The writer used the hour well.  The plot moved along, the characters were rich, and the emotional quotient was intense.  The texture of the place (leather sticking to legs, shaving foam, a bar that's "proper classy" as it has "no banging base lines") was well-rendered. 

Ria Zmitrowicz deserves special mention for physically hurling herself into the role of Kirsty.  She can be the vulnerable child, the adult wise-beyond her years, the sex object and the driven teen all within a space of a few minutes. 

Without question a writer and performers to watch and well worth your time at the Fringe.

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