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Tits/Teeth

By • Off-West End
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The National Youth Theatre’s First Timers season demonstrates two key fundamentals: it is generously funded – witness the glossy programme and the production values – and there is no shortage of theatrical talent in the student generation. Both are causes for celebration. Should any sceptics be in danger of underestimating what’s on offer here, when all eyes are on Edinburgh, a visit to the Soho Theatre is to be advised.

“You look so good on all fours” says Ffion’s boyfriend in the first play of this double-bill, and, sadly, Ffion, whose only real ambition is to be a glamour model, takes this as a compliment. She is delighted to find herself as a screensaver on schoolfriends’ mobiles, and rapidly progresses to a ‘meeting’ in the local Starbucks where a young sleazeball who still lives with his mum advises her to get a boob job if she really wants to succeed. She hands over £200 in cash to join the ‘agency’ and, needless to say, goes through with the necessary operation only to discover that her image will be photoshopped out of recognition anyway. Celebrity magazines come in for some stick here as Tits examines the generation who see their bodies as sculptable expressions of their worth to society. Easy dramatic targets, and a somewhat predictable storyline, but deftly written and very fetchingly played by Gwyneth Keyworth as Ffion and Lizzi Connolly as her friend Cheryl.

The second play, Teeth, plumbs deeper psychological depths, dealing with a girl, Louise, who discovers that her self-hatred stems from a condition called body dysmorphia. Again the two central roles are beautifully played by Sophie Ward as Louise and Ria Zmitrowicz as Cassie. They catch completely the stubbornness and bewilderment of two sisters who are unable to comprehend what lies beyond the immediately physical. Both plays, by Michael Wynne, author of The Knocky and The People Are Friendly (Best Comedy nomination, WhatsOnStage Awards), have an appealing freshness and vitality and are tellingly directed by Anna Niland.

With the luxury of a vast pool of performers to call upon, both plays feature a chorus-like ensemble of gym members, dancers, doctors and nurses, who add a surreal touch to the inner churnings of the adolescent minds (choreography and movement by Cristina Avery and Imogen Knight, respectively).

Tits/Teeth is only one programme in a series of five at this address. A promising start.

- Giles Cole



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