Ascent – Camden Fringe, The Museum of Comedy

Reviewer: Richard Maguire

Writers: Lucy Loughnane and Joseph Ward

Director: Joseph Ward

This expertly written play begins with Lucy Maughan leaving her Welsh town of Flint to go to university to study drama. At first, she feels as if she’s following in the footsteps of her sister who also left home to study for a degree. But her sister returned, moved back to Wales, and then back to Flint, and then eventually to live across the road from the family home. But Lucy’s journey won’t be circular; her path is an ascent.

Lucy won’t go back home. She won’t return to hang out with her friends in the Asda car park where she spent most of her childhood. She wants to move up in life, but she also wants to stay true to her working class roots. Can she keep one foot on the ground as she ascends the social class system?

The first thing she realises when she arrives at university is that many of her fellow students also claim to be working class. But she soon discovers that this is not the case; they have cars and MacBooks and someone of them live in their own houses rather than in halls. However, with help from the Welsh Government, Lucy gets a student grant because she comes from a low- income family and her job as an accommodation officer means that she doesn’t have to pay for her room in halls. She is able to save money, enough even to buy a new MacBook. She will become indistinguishable from her peers.

Lucy Loughnane is a confident performer and the warning from the Museum of Comedy’s staff that we should treat this Camden Fringe show as a work-in-progress seems unnecessary and over-cautious. In the main, Loughnane’s script, written along with Joseph Ward, is polished and she doesn’t miss a beat in this 55-minute show. With only a few props she easily conjures up the excitement and the isolation of university life.

Occasionally, Ascent does lack pace. The rhyming section doesn’t quite work and comes across as too sentimental and too persuasive. Loughnane would be wiser to import the ideas from this part into the main monologue. The end is also a little pat; perhaps Loughnane could do something more with the self-awareness her character acquires as she moves to London.

But these are minor gripes. Loughnane’s play is a serious examination of society where a younger generation thinks it’s cool to be part of the working class and yet have no idea of what real poverty means or no experience of having the bailiffs knocking at the door. Ascent also acknowledges that some working class communities are way behind when it comes to gender politics and postcolonial issues, matters that Lucy’s new friends take to with ease. But when it comes to class, the old-age British battle still remains.

Runs until 7 August 2022

The Camden Fringe from 1- 28 August 2022

The Reviews Hub Score

Class warfare

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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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