Writer: Samantha O’Rourke
Director: Ameera Conrad
Rhyl, North Wales, once a booming seaside resort and holiday destination for many families across the North West. Now a town in need of major regeneration and a Nando’s. Set in a high school the production charts the journey of five students forced together for an 8-week GSCE drama project. A project that will see friendships develop, destroyed and challenged through a variety of subjects and topics.
Writer Samantha O’Rourke based the play on her experiences as a teaching assistant. O’Rourke rightly so wants to tackle some very serious topics, but the decision to include; broken families, fostering, teenage pregnancy, drug use, sexuality, sexual assault, eating disorders and anger management to name a few, means that while topics are discussed they are never really tackled in-depth meaning that the themes never feel fully resolved or wrestled with. Ironically one of the very things the students within the piece lambast about drama projects in schools – is the very thing that catches this promising new work out so often. One would need to question why this wasn’t brought up through the dramaturgical development of the piece. O’Rourke is a promising writer – the piece has some acutely strong moments, and her biting sense of humour is firmly embedded throughout the characters. Feeling very much at times, like an on-stage version of cult-comedy Derry Girls.
The cast are uniformly strong, the energy of the five actors is faultless – Nadia Anim as Zahidah is brilliantly naïve and really comes into her own during the second act. Chloe Hughes’ aggressive Ellie is a delight and she manages to find a strong balance between the hard-faced outsider and the scared young female perfectly. Mali O’Donnell’s performance is arguably the most confident on stage, needless to say, this is arguably due to the already incredibly impressive wealth of experience gained since graduating – her portrayal of Rachel is solid and steadfast. Kalli Tant as Beth gives a powerful portrayal of a young gay woman, struggling to find her place. She manages to mix anger and sadness in an impressive professional stage debut. Jada-Li Warrican plays the new girl at school Chloe with depth, allowing the character’s bravado to mask her insecurities perfectly.
Director, Ameera Conrad, clearly knows how to get the best from her cast, but the elephant in the room is the set design by Jacob Hughes – a tiered staging which is used to house woefully underused (superfluous) amounts of school chairs and hidden cupboards which hinder transitions between scenes. The Everyman space isn’t easy, the deep thrust means you need to find a set that can not only fill the space but one that also helps move the story along – here Coleman’s set manages one of the two and arguably settles on the one that least helps the narrative.
Our Town Needs A Nandos has plenty to recommend, as a showcase to the talents coming out of the incredibly productive Young Everyman Playhouse (YEP) it’s a clear win. However, it feels like this production needs more time in development, maybe even a shorter run to iron out some of its fundamental issues (less really is more) before being thrust onto the main stage.
Runs until 2 July 2022