Katie (Rosie Wyatt) is a precocious and cocky 18 year old. She has an older black boyfriend and has blown so many boys that she almost earned the nickname ‘balloon girl’. But underneath her streetwise exterior is she a scared bunny?
Jack Thorne’s new play is a subtle but successful character study. An almost farcical incidence of violence causes a series of events prompting Katie to examine her life. She emerges as an arrogant child slyly taking petty acts of revenge on people against whom she nurses a grievance. It is exciting to watch as growing self-awareness moves Katie towards, if not redemption, at least regret.
Director Joe Murphy fails to generate the necessary exhilaration and tension to reflect the aggression described in the play. As a result the play drifts until it reaches Katie’s self-examination.
The design, by Hannah Clark and Ian William Galloway, is highly imaginative. Jenny Turner’s simple but elegant street scene illustrations are broadcast onto video screens behind the actor creating a much-needed sense of momentum. This leads to a final moving sequence that places Katie in the centre of her world.
Sole actor Wyatt tackles the role of Katie with gusto. Inevitably, as the character is speaking the playwright’s words, she is a bit too articulate to be realistic. Physically she shows Katie to be still struggling with the changes of adolescence – gawky limbs not quite adjusted to their new size. Wyatt conveys Katie’s efforts to understand her past actions and to cope with the consequential sense of shame.
Audiences might not like Katie much but Rosie Wyatt ensures that they will understand her.