Teenage Riot – Traverse – 4 stars
T5 – Traverse – 4 stars
Quartet – Traverse – 3 stars
If one show has captured the pure unadulterated joy of being young and
irresponsible over the last few years, it was the Belgian company
Ontroerend Goed’s magnificent burst of messy life that was 2008’s Once
and For All We’re Gonna Tell You Who We Are So Shut Up and Listen. Two
years on, and adolescent angst has got the better of a fresh crop of
sulkily hormonal urchins in Teenage Riot, a far bleaker hour of
self-destructive fun and frolics.
As the audience come into the auditorium, they’re greeted by the sight
of a big white cube on an otherwise naked stage. Onto this is projected
a live video feed highlighting a series of inane household goods. As
the camera focuses on a coat-hangar, a tube of glue or a chunk of
detergent, an unseen voice shouts its hellos as if each one was some
fantasy world cartoon character come to life.
Things explode soon enough as the camera pans its way through what
turns out to be a secret den for the eight not so bright-eyed underage
wonders who make up the cast trying to create a world of their own
behind closed doors. As they role around, tease the camera and
generally get jiggy with the idea if not the actions of sex, violence
and rude words, what emerges is a nihilistic, self-absorbed litany of
the difficult years, full of bad poetry, black clothes and girls and
boys with attitude problems.
Where Once and For All was a big horny embrace, Teenage Riot is putting
two fingers up to the old farts in the audience who the little darlings
turn the camera don during a rare excursion out of their cocoon. Which,
over the slim fifty minute onslaught of Alexander Devriendt’s
production, is exactly how it should be.
If audiences are expecting a light bite to start the day as part of
Impossible Things For Breakfast, the Traverse’s mini season of staged
play-readings, they should probably think again. As Britain’s leading
new writing theatre prepares to transmit five new works on cinema
screens across the UK in Traverse Live, an initiative that mainstream
television divorced itself of responsibility for many years ago now,
the serious meat of what’s on offer is a welcome feast.
First up is Simon Stephens’ T5, in which a woman travels across London
in quietly mounting despair after witnessing a horrific act at close
quarters as she embarks on her travelogue, she witnesses every detail
of her surroundings in sharp focus as her senses are awakened to each
moment she’s living in while the lyrics to left-field pop songs
instinctively punctuate her musings. Played magnificently by Meg Fraser
on a raised chair pinned to the theatre back wall, Stephens has created
a troubling study of urban anxiety that easily stands alongside his
other miniatures, Seawall and Heaven as they unleash the genie of
internal panic from its bottle in Dominic Hill’s production, and lets
it run away with itself.
Quartet by Marina Carr is a far more conventional looking affair, with
affair being the operative word in this stately yarn about an
international diplomat’s romantic encounters throughout the 1950s and
1960s. With a wife, a long-standing mistress and a younger lover in
tow, Andy Gray’s jet-setting charmer operates an utterly civilised
agenda as he moves between each. His devotion to all is sincere, and
with his paramours played by Anne Kidd, Cora Bissett and Irene
MacDougall, who can blame him?
Vicky Featherstone’s simply staged production sets these postcards from
Dublin, Cork, Washington and Rome at table, the classic venue for such
intimate encounters, punctuating each with little musical flourishes.
The neat twist at the end of Carr’s thirty-five minute piece says much
about the fickleness of loyalty.
The other three plays in the Impossible Things For Breakfast have yet
to be seen by the Herald, but bright things can be expected from Linda
McLean, whose This Is Water is directed by Stewart Laing, Enda Walsh’s
My Friend Duplicity directed by Featherstone and David Eldridge’s All
is Vanity directed by Zinnie Harris.
Traverse Live, in association with Hibrow Productions, beams down all
five plays this coming Monday evening.
Traverse Live, Cameo Cinema, August 23rd, 7pm-10pm. Impossible Things
for Breakfast continues at the Traverse Theatre until August 29th, 9am.
The Herald, August 20th 2010