Writer: Jim Cartwright
Director: Anthony Banks
Reviewer: Jo Beggs
Shane lives for the weekend, for the moment when he puts on his pristine new shirt at the end of a week in filthy overalls. Too old to be living at home, to be told by his mum not to go out drinking on an empty stomach, Shane’s ready for a big night out, to blow the pay check on drink and drugs, and on a quest to get laid.
In Jim Cartwright’s hour-long monologue he examines the binge drinking culture of the low-paid generation, giving us an uncompromising slice of life in a northern town. Shane’s the guy that everyone cheers when he arrives at the pub, in charge of the drug supply, the ring-leader of his group of loser mates. But in true Jim Cartwright style he’s also the one who’s loved and lost, the one who desperately wants to end this endless charade of Saturday nights out with the lads.
James Cartwright plays Shane. Initially he seems a little too old for the part, but this makes the piece increasingly poignant as we realise he’s a grown man, still living with mum and dad, still behaving like he’s twenty. It’s possible that the ‘ex’ who needs to be avoided in town is the result of a failed marriage rather than just a youthful broken heart. Played by a younger actor, this would be a very different play.
There’s no coincidence in the names here. James is Jim Junior, and although Cartwright didn’t write the piece with his son in mind, the combination works rather wonderfully. In an after show discussion, James says that having his Dad’s voice in his head helped when he started work on it. Jim Cartwright’s beautifully observed characters – from a Welsh taxi driver to Shane’s motley mates – are nicely brought to life by James, with their little physical and vocal quirks. It’s clear that both father and son are keen people watchers, storing away the minutiae for the page or the stage. James is a powerful performer, bursting with energy, delivering sharp comedy and dark drama. He totally owns the lengthy, fast-paced script, which slips from laddish banter to poetry, mimicry to rhyming couplets.
Raz is a surprisingly beautiful and affecting play, while losing none of the entertainment value we’ve come to expect from Cartwright. It gets plenty of laughs from a lively audience at the Lowry, but sends everyone out with something to think about. You can’t ask for much more from an hour in the theatre.
Reviewed on 16 May 2016