Writer: Sophie Wu
Director: Mel Hillyard
Reviewer: Stephen Bates
Sophie Wu sets her debut play on the rugged Scottish coastline, where the cold of Summer and the midges bite with equal force. Teenage love blossoms briefly before being washed up on the rocky shore, only to be revisited and reflected upon 15 years later.
Wu’s bitter-sweet comedy, getting its World Premiere here in the Bush Theatre’s new studio space, shows considerable promise. The writer has a sharp ear for the mundane details of everyday conversation and she develops distinctive characters without veering towards stereotypes.
A 17-year-old Scot, Joe Bannister’s geeky, easily put-upon Jim, finds his obsession with crustaceans displaced by a crush for a visitor from “Englandshire”. Ruby Bentall’s dreamy, jolly-hockey-sticks schoolgirl Ramona is a misfit with her own set and equally so in remote Scotland. The couple’s flirtation, under a meteor shower to the accompaniment of Enya’s Orinoco Flow is more awkward than romantic, but its consummation is richly comic.
Fast forward 15 years and Ramona returns to the scene to tell Jim, now a tour guide, something significant relating to their first encounter, but finds that he is now in a relationship with 19-year-old Pocahontas (Amy Lennox). She too is a dreamer, setting her sights on material possessions and getting her controlling claws into Jim, until Ramona’s return gives him the strength to resist.
The play is well served by Mel Hillyard’s simple thrust staging and three strong performances, Bannister and Bentall spanning the years with confidence. However, it is spanning the gap between dreams and reality that provides Wu with her overriding theme. Her characters dream, but their inherent inadequacies make them the architects of their own misfortunes and result in their lack of fulfilment.
Lightly plotted, Wu’s play is sustained over 80 minutes by its quirky humour, founded on the universal truth that the pieces in life’s jigsaw rarely fit together neatly. Her three characters strive valiantly to match up their fantasies with reality, but, like most of us, they do not quite make it happen.
Runs until 21 October 2017 | Image: Samuel Taylor