Punchy and urban but with a romantic core and melodic twists, Wild Horses by Nimer Rashed shares a lot with The Rolling Stones song of the same name. From Ellie’s opening gasp to her final gentle blowing of a toy windmill, we are whisked along her rollercoaster ride of love, loss, betrayal and forgiveness in an evening that alternates between the desperately funny and the desperately sad.
Runaway Ellie Porter has returned home to the consternation of her parents, best friend and past love. As she deals with her uncertain future, a multitude of possibilities are dangled like golden carrots in front of her; but who is controlling these hopes and dreams, Ellie, or those who profess to know what’s best for her?
Underneath Rashed’s pithy street dialogue lie deep undercurrents of bitterness and each silence is thick with resentment. The caustically funny Rashed has cleverly created a kitchen-sink drama (reflected in Lorna Ritchie’s multi-tasking Ikea unit set) that references the social commentary of the Angry Young Men whilst comedically winking at the grimy grotesque family drama of Shameless. But the best thing about this new play is that it ends up somewhere altogether more surreal than either; somewhere that you would never expect.
On the way it perhaps tries too hard, with some of the intense emotional conflicts feeling forced. Rashed has pressed his point too far and the resulting situations occasionally feel a little blunt. But these are sporadic occurrences in a touching play that is rich in empathy.
Jessica Clark’s Ellie is a nervous young colt, the compelling yet unstable centre in a swirling, scary universe. Her well-wishing manipulators initially give off the image of solidity and security, but soon the cracks begin to show. From Ellie’s sensible and sassy friend Zoe (Jade Anouka), manic cheeky chappy ex-flame Darren (a hilariously German, tourettes-ridden John Trindle), to her disturbing and disturbed mother and father (Amanda Daniels and a wonderfully tense Patrick Toomey), no one is safe. The affecting cast perform with commitment and elegance.
Wild Horses nearly runs away with itself at the end, only just pulling back with enough integrity to justify the lunacy that precedes it. It’s not perfect, but this is an engaging production of an interesting and unexpected text.