Writer: Jennifer Tuckett
Directors: Chris Hill and Rhys McClelland
Reviewer: Selwyn Knight
In the Young REP, Birmingham Rep is blessed with a very talented troupe of youngsters. They act, sing and dance with skill and gusto. They put their hearts and souls into this production, but unfortunately, the writing lets them down.
A group of teenagers are disgruntled at the cuts the government are imposing. Taking a leaf from the book of nine-year-old Jessica Trueman, who wrote to the prime minister to protest against the planned closure of her local library, they write to David Cameron to tell him of the impact the cuts are having on them. When this brings no response, they hatch a plan to lure the prime minister to them, kidnap him, and not release him until he agrees to their demands. The kidnap goes to plan, but Mr Cameron explains he is powerless as an individual to help. So in a fantastical twist, they kidnap the queen, who explains that as a constitutional monarch, she is unable to help either. So who to turn to? As if it wasn’t sufficiently unbelievable up to now, the day is saved by Justin Bieber, who, presumably, just happened to be passing, and uses the power of celebrity to help.
As a surreal fantasy, this might work. However, the whole takes itself far too seriously and presents a very one sided, monochromatic and somewhat repetitious picture. It has the feel of a sixth form skit. To summarise: Cuts are bad. Very bad. And so is the government. One character says that, “Politics should be taught in schools” so that youngsters can understand better – a fair point. But this production veered more towards indoctrination than education. No hint is given as to the reasons behind the government’s actions, nor is any feasible alternative offered.
This is a pity as there are many good points. The production is slick and fast-moving. Lighting is well used and the set is effective. The large cast move sure-footedly around one another. Hannah Kelly, as the domineering Lucy, is an assured presence. Whether arguing her case, bossing the others, or singing a capella, she has a great talent. Similarly, the supporting cast of Grace Barrington and Connor Doyle make a very good fist of their rôles, arguing how they see the cuts affecting them and their aspirations.
So a talented cast, performing well, but who deserve much better than this two dimensional writing.
Runs until 21 July 2012
Picture: Jessica Oates