Teenage years are imbued with the sense that the events taking place are legendary – it’s a time of survival and, perhaps strangely, one of nostalgia. Much of the rousing spirit of this makes it across to the drama of Daniel Hoffman Gill’s new play. The story revolves around the lives of three tight friends; Michael (Dimeji Sadig), Danny (Jarrod Cooke) and Shelley (Annishia Lunnette). They navigate their way uncertainly through adolescence in 1980’s Nottingham, trying to get by and revelling in the lives they know.
The drama kicks off with a slightly unbelievable but rather touching initial meeting between Danny and Michael when they collide into each other as thirteen year olds on out of control bicycles. An instant rapport springs up between them and remains hearteningly strong as the two encounter drugs, ideas, violence, and, occasionally, girls.
The piece is interspersed with the ramblings of the ‘Swinging Man’, a hopeless middle aged alcoholic who circles the young as a dark reminder of how events could unfold; a figment of the boy’s possible future.
Emotions peak when Michael and Danny lie watching the sunrise after yet another bender. There is something earthy and pure in their fractured conversation, and in the connection between them. It puts an emotional edge of souls, love, life and friendship into the mix of drugs, sex and hip-hop.
Hoffman’s sharp and intelligent scripting cuts an enjoyable black humour. It’s well balanced in its swings between laughter and the sudden entrance of seriousness and tragedy. There’s a self-awareness that gives the story an integrity it might otherwise lack; it keeps well away from the sentimental gaff it could have been.
Beyond dwelling on the '80s, the politics and the location, this drama exhibits people as rats at the mercy of emotional and cultural tunnels. The basic need for stability and familiarity holds the characters together, pinioned to their world. The crux is, as teenagers, they can revel in this. The result is that the heart of the play opens up as a fragile, vulnerable and innocent coming of age, suggesting what this time of life has to offer and why we are drawn to it.