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Whole (Manchester)

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
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Whole is a powerful and emotional play from the innovative company 20 Stories High, which works with young people to produce daring drama.

Three nineteen-year old teenagers state that they got in touch with the company to ask whether they could tell the story of their friend Holly. They tell the audience that with the help of an actress playing Holly (Grace Willis), what they are about to see is the result.

Holly and Dylan had been friends from when they were in nursery school. Later, in secondary school they meet Chantal, a born again Christian and the Joseph, a Nigerian who goes to the same church as Chantal. Their story, or Holly’s story as it is presented, is one of friendship, religion, sexuality and betrayal. It illustrates the way school puts people from different backgrounds together, and how they will never be in that situation again as they grow apart.

It also shows the conflict, which could occur when one person’s deep-rooted religious beliefs are challenged by a friend’s sexuality. Music plays an important part in the piece, from Holly’s poems and raps to Chantal’s moving gospel songs. And a pounding soundtrack plays in between scenes.

At the end of the play the teenagers reveal that they are not who they say they are but incredibly talented actors (Annabel Annan-Jonathan], Jacob Beswick and Joseph Adelakun). It says a lot for them that it is so convincing but it is also a little disappointing.

Although, it is based on real stories and discussions with young people in Liverpool,  the effect of believing that it is a true account is one that cannot be imitated. 20 Stories High and writer Philip Osmet have produced an emotional roller coaster of a play, which will leave you stunned.

- Joanna Ing


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