School as war zone, but is the setting of a gigantic cage where metaphor becomes cliché? Victim made into villain, a bit obvious? Not when part of such a gripping production, with every one of the magnificent cast deserving a gold star – to be stars.
Events accelerate with Shakespearian inexorability: Amanda (Jackie Clunes) is pushed by a black student, Jason (Ryan Calais Cameron) and turns the other cheek, much to the fury of her daughter, Becky. Rosie Wyatt is scintillating, so tough, so vulnerable, although the mother/teenage daughter relationship seems oddly atypical. There are other contrivances: revelations with no apparent reason; the plot left hanging in places then going off in a wholly unexpected direction, and one meticulously choreographed scene seems to lead nowhere, with a witness never called upon.
Nonetheless, the whole is more than the sum of its parts, with much humour from gang mentality, mainly Tendeyi Jembere (Chuggs) and Hammed Animashaun (Jordon), and largely authentic dialogue, despite few cultural references (no music?). However, Jason’s father (Nicholas Bevenery) looked and acted menacingly but did not always sound it, while Jason himself appears so nervy, his friends react more from indifference than intimidation; whatever, rather than fear of what may happen. Nonetheless, the skilful blend of comedy and tragedy was a huge hit with an audience composed mainly of students, whose reaction was audible; they may occasionally have laughed in the wrong place, but were clearly shocked by some scenes.
Winner of the Bruntwood award, the focus is on the many grey areas rather than what appears to be black and white – fans of pc and cp alike will have their cages rattled. A remarkable first play by Vivienne Franzmann, bound for roaring success.