Thursday 16 October 2008

Sh*t-M*x - Trafalgar Studios, London

This summer the newspapers have been filled with stories of teenage stabbings, shootings and violence. Politicians could be found chucking soundbites around about a broken society and parental responsibility and one could have been forgiven for thinking that Anthony Burgess' vision in A Clockwork Orange had come to pass. Whilst there's no doubt that there are serious issues at the heart of all those stories life for most teenagers is made up of the same worries that we all have at that age: growing up, friendship and sex and it is just these elements which Leo Richardson exploits to great comedic effect in his first play, on at Trafalgar Studios 2 until 25 October.

In the week between Halloween and Bonfire night a group of unlikely friends congregate around a bench in their local park. Each of them has their own problems to deal with. Raggedy Anne (or 'goth-chops' as she's referred to by Dirty Debbie) is in love with LB. He's dealing with the fallout from some event which brought an ambulance to his home, was it really just food poisoning his brother, Harry the Hottie, was sufffering from? Bent Ben just wants a girlfriend (and to be in musicals), but is he hot for Harry? And as for Dirty Debbie; well it's hard work writing erotic fiction whilst relieving men of their, well, you get the idea. Oh and a shit-mix, for those of you not down with the kids, is a cocktail made from any available spirits, usually tasting horrible.

Each of the characters is hilariously realised by a talented cast (Steven Webb is particularly good as Ben) and in Samantha Potter's exuberant production they get more than just an entrance. Each character is accompanied by their own theme tune and the play is studded with moments of dance and movement during which the mounted photographs which indicate the park setting in Kerry Bradley's inventive design are lit to reveal graffiti portraits for each character. The energy is impressive throughout and the audience around me absolutely loved it. It may be a bit much to describe it as a gritty comedy, there's a fairly light touch throughout, but the play has its stronger moments and especially in an act of violence near the end there is real power to the piece. As a straight man in my mid-thirties I didn't really feel like the target audience but for those around me though most joy came from the pop-culture references and those moments of recognition; we all know or have at least seen these characters around and about and there's lots of fun to be had by revelling in their silliness.


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