DramaLondonReview

Five Percent – Etcetera Theatre, London

Reviewer: Dulcie Godfrey

Writers: Athena Atherton and Cassia Crimin

Director: Jenny Wan

‘Your life will never be the same again’. The refrain heard over and over by teenager Lydia, reeling after an awful attack and trying to pick up the pieces. Reclaim Production’s Five Percent is a stark and moving portrayal of life after trauma, the discovery of identity and the journey through deciding what ‘justice’ actually means.

17-year-old Lydia’s phone won’t stop ringing: at school, during therapy, at home. On the end of the line is an over-zealous police officer who wants a detailed character profile of the person who assaulted her in a cab on the way home from a party. It’s very difficult for Lydia to relive, but he’s just trying to help Lydia seek justice through the law, despite the knowledge that only 5% of rape cases end in a charge. This is encouraged by Lydia’s mother thinking this ‘justice’ is what will make her child ‘better’, and help her move on. But Lydia just feels like she isn’t being listened to. Faced with the glaring statistics, all whilst trying to continue going to school and recover, Lydia has to find out if this ‘justice’ is actually what she needs.

Cassia Crimin as our teenage protagonist provides excellent balance between teenage self-consciousness and headstrong stubbornness. It’s a nice exploration of the battle between a deep-rooted adolescent desire to fit in and be ‘normal’ and being a young person who’s suffered a terrible ordeal and is coming to terms with the implications of it. Through Lydia’s eyes and Crimin’s skilful balancing act, the play provides interesting musings on the ‘correct’ way to be a victim. At times the angsty teen act is slightly overdone, just a few too many eye rolls and shrill shouting, but this has as much to do with certain elements of pacing and script as the performance.

Amber Doyle as Kate, the well-meaning mother of Crimin’s Lydia provides the most compelling pairing of this production. It has its classic mother-teenage daughter battles, filled with sarcasm and occasionally yelling but at profound moments we see the humanity behind it. One particularly moving moment sees mother Kate confessing her weariness at being Lydia’s emotional punching bag, describing the toll it takes on her, and Lydia’s realisation of her mum as a human who makes mistakes.

David Sayers is solid as the infuriating Police officer, continually insensitively saying the wrong things and placing expectations on Lydia as a certain type of victim. Indeed, Lydia’s therapist, played by Neizan Fernandez, provides a necessary calmness to the production, as he expresses full of well-meaning advice that mostly works to add to Lydia’s emotional load. The main downside to Fernandez’s characterisation has nothing to do with his performance, just that he is far too young to be talking about his own mother as if he were a different generation, coming across only a few years older than Lydia herself.

There are genuinely moving moments and Crimin’s emotional monologues, seemingly drawn from a raw and powerful place, fill the stage nicely. But quite a bit of power is lost when the volume rises. At times the emotion warrants shouting, but the number of times the volume peaked in quick succession gives the audience no time to adjust or accommodate, simply resulting in them pulling away from the emotion rather than delving into it. At times it feels as if we are dropped into Lydia’s storyline without really knowing how we got there.

By the end, however, the script provides a heartwarming resolution, and again, the beautiful mother-daughter portrayal forms the backbone of a moving plot. A fitting rendition of Lily Allen’s F*ck You then sees the audience out.

Five Percent is a meaningful portrayal of trauma, asserting strength over the parts of your identity where you can, and realising the things that have happened to you don’t define you. A worthy watch with a less touched-upon message.

Reviewed on 9 February 2024

The Reviews Hub Score

Moving portrayal of life after trauma

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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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