Arthur’s Seat – Lion & Unicorn Theatre, London

Reviewer: John Cutler

Writers: Morag Maryland, Ellie Drayton, Rosie Meek, Emily Proudlock, and Holly McConville

Director: Morag Mayland

Arthur’s Seat, currently playing at the Lion & Unicorn Theatre, is about five pre-university teenage friends on an exhausting hangover hike up the volcanic hill that overlooks Edinburgh. The story is slender and eminently forgettable; a demonstration that going up a hill and then down again does not always guarantee dramatic tension. But taken as series of character sketches rather than drama, the piece from the 13 Months Theatre ensemble has something to offer.

Readers of young adult fiction will probably recognise the kind of character that Arthur’s Seat introduces. Tilly (Rosie Meek) is the sparky and gregarious pal whose cheeky surface charm masks the damage that growing up with an alcoholic parent can cause. Ash (Holly McConville) is grieving the loss of her dad and looking for meaning in life. Her sensible best friend Susan’s (Ellie Drayton) growing feelings for Ash are more than just platonic and threaten to get in the way of the friendship. Jodie (Emily Proudlock) is the smart one, but does she really want that place at Oxford she has worked so hard for? Charlotte (Morag Mayland) is the sporty one, but will they be able to combine rugby practice with exam success?

It takes some writing and performing skills to make these personalities broadly plausible in a 45 minute piece. Aided by some imaginative choreography and movement direction from Drayton, the writer/performers offer realistic reflections on where life has taken each character, and hints as to who they are becoming. The theme, that life is full of opportunities that are ripe for picking, is positive, inclusive, and hard to argue with.

But drama requires more than just characterisation and, too often, Arthur’s Seat feels like a group of amenable actors in search of a story. Adding in a chance meeting with an unseen fellow hiker adds little by way of narrative. The unseen Donald is presumably a metaphor for what can be learnt from an older, wiser generation, but it is never made clear what the characters are supposed to have understood from the encounter. There is no discernible sense of change or conflict here. As a snapshot of young lives, it is credible, but as a piece of theatre it feels very much like work in progress.

Runs until 24 September 2022

The Reviews Hub Score

Thin teenage drama

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The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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