Writer: Evan Placey
Director: Wendy Harris
Designer: Kate Bunce
Reviewer: Ron Simpson
WiLd!, Evan Placey’s delightfully entertaining, thoughtful and pertinent little play for tutti frutti is specifically aimed to raise public awareness of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and does so in the character of Billy, rising 11 and the bane of his teachers’ lives at primary school.
Billy, most engagingly played by Rhys Warrington, is undoubtedly a nuisance – the things he does with lighting frames and fire extinguishers are not conducive to the comfort of his elders – but he has a point of view, he sees the world in his own way, and suspending him from school or taking him out of class to do worksheets is a poor substitute for understanding him.
Billy’s problems are three-fold, but all linked to his ADHD. One is the scrapes he gets into with his unsympathetic teachers and even with his doctors; secondly, he has become excluded from his classmates’ play and social activities; finally, he is constantly tormented by the fact that his dad doesn’t come home. In fact, his father told him he was leaving his mother – but only moving a few streets away. Billy, of course, wasn’t listening. His father doesn’t emerge as a very sympathetic parent, but Billy loves him and inherits his interest in bees.
The happy-ish ending is reached by a mix of the practical – medication can help andwhen he goes to senior school, there will be a whole group of children like him – and the semi-magical – bees won’t sting Billy because they understand him.
Wendy Harris directs a production full of energy and imagination. Kate Bunce’s designs make much of the bee motif, with a backcloth of honeycombs and a beehive centre-stage. The other main, practical and very much used prop is a climbing frame. Molly Lopresti provides a mostly unobtrusive musical commentary on tuned percussion, creating atmosphere and playing a bit of “hurry hurry” music, then switching to resounding hand-drumming to cover the important explanation that Billy fails to concentrate on.
However, the major plaudits go to Rhys Warrington for a terrific performance that ticks all the boxes. Given the subject, a heightened level of physical activity is an obvious requirement and Warrington, delivering lines precisely while swinging on the climbing frame, supplies it. His instant characterisations of all who come in Billy’s path are superbly done, the Head Teacher, Mrs. Grumble, his former best friend Connor and Connor’s socially aspirant mother among those who are captured in gesture and speech pattern. Best of all, as Billy he creates a likeable, sympathetic character, but not unrealistically so, well-intentioned, not unintelligent, often a problem, but deserving of understanding and capable of treatment.
Touring nationwide | Image: Brian Slater