A bare brick wall greets us at the start of this new play about damaged teenagers on the cusp of adult-hood. By the end of this co-production between Edinburgh International Festival and The National Theatre Of Scotland, it resembles something that looks like home. In the two hours inbetween, overseen by director Vicky Featherstone, David Harrower’s script melds with a series of crucial stage picture collaborations between movement director Stephen Hoggett, designer Georgia McGuinness and others to create a fascinating patchwork of raw experience transformed into an elegant and at times heartbreaking theatrical poem of low-key empathy and beauty.
More than half a dozen mini narratives open doors on at times brutal rites of passage, from one young girl’s painful reconciliation with her mother, to a sexually destructive triangle and an African girl intent on burning her childhood away. Then there’s the burgeoning friendship between a lanky galumph and a runaway girl half his size.
Where others might present such material as grim kitchen-sink naturalism, each vignette is staged so carefully and performed so beautifully by a cast of fourteen playing characters named only by letters, that any accusation of soap opera is transcended. Especially when the realism of the situation is upended, and we’re in some fantasy forest play-ground, through which these lost boys and girls try to find their way home. After that it’s one evocative coup de theatre after another, and by the time we’re looking in on a room with curtains, the romantic sentimentalism of Paul Buchanan’s soundtrack may help push the right buttons, but the myriad of young lives in motion that cross our path present an honest and painful portrait of wasted youth to treasure.
The Herald, August 24th 2008