“This is it”, but is it wasted? During 24 remarkable hours, three friends reflect, discover more about themselves and each other and, through their lost friend Tony, have their own personal epiphany. London rapper Kate Tempest’s tale is a mixture of rap and theatrical story-telling. We are drawn into this world and held transfixed for well over a discomfiting hour.

 

With a vibrant, sometimes pumping, yet never obtrusive, soundtrack by Kwake Bass and a constantly changing video-scape by Mathy Tremewan and Fran Broadhurst together, illustrating the scenes from South London streets, cafes, clubs to the overlooking park, Wasted is rap meets Caryl Churchill. There are echoes of the set pieces and themes of Cloud Nine and Top Girls.

 

Wasted describes, and shows graphically, the drug and alcohol self-medicated states that the three protagonists enter on stage and it’s not for the squeamish. For many in the audience, this will resonate with their own leisure time but others, no doubt, will be shocked.  James Greive’s basic direction needs nothing more than Cai Dyfan’s simple but effective stage design and Angela Anson’s Pasha-club lighting to give life to the story, and the superbly believable and brilliantly played characters. 

 

What happened to the unseen friend Tony?  This is the crux of one aspect of Wasted.  By the end, the packed audience in Brighton’s Pavilion Theatre is left to decide for themselves.  Escaping the monotony, and getting wasted, is teacher Charlotte, played by pitch perfect Lizzy Watts, sexy but self-deluding wannabe musician Danny Ashley George and office worker Ted, stuck in a 9-5 job, magnificently played, with layer upon layer of subtlety and technical genius, by Cary Crankson.

 

Can Charlotte, Danny and Ted escape the same fate as Tony?  Charlotte is planning to run away to a simpler society abroad, escaping her stagnant relationship with Danny and her detested teaching job; Danny from his frustrated unexpressed emotions and Ted from the dead-locked tedium of hours spent shopping at IKEA with his girlfriend.  As Danny says, “When you’re wasted everything makes perfect sense.”

 

Wasted is a moral play about modern conflicts.  We live in the most sophisticated, affluent society in the history of mankind, so why are lives wasted, ambitions dulled, leisure time abused and squandered and ultimately lives unsatisfied?  The free-flow of recreational substances is glamorised here, perhaps too much so, slightly subduing the ‘moral’ of the tale. The same could have been written 90 years ago about the early plays of Coward.  The stunning decadence of The Vortex, particularly pertinent here, and the love triangle of Design for Living, all grown up now into our modern world represented here.

 

Wasted makes perfect sense.  As the audience rises to cheer at the end it is not just for the theatrical spectacle we have just witnessed, but also because we have called into question our own wasted experience. Can we, unlike the characters, achieve our own escape from recreational self-medication and from a bitter, cynical and wasted 21st century existence?  As Ted says, “Life is not roses and blow jobs forever.”  This is it.