Stratford Circus – 28th October. Reviewed by Claire Roderick
Frantic Assembly’s Ignition programme runs workshops and trials around the UK to engage young men in theatre, and every year 12 are selected to come to London to create a performance. These are not drama schools kids, but lads with raw talent that may well have never considered working in the arts.
The company started work on the show on Saturday, and to produce something of such an amazing standard is nothing short of a miracle. The level of trust and camaraderie on stage makes it seem as if they have been working together for years. Directors Scott Graham, Neil Bettles and Jonnie Riordan (a graduate of Ignition) have worked with the company to produce a stunning show full of warmth and challenging society’s perceptions of youth. Through monologues and dance there is a continuing theme of “what I know”, being thought of as “a waster and an idiot” and “what if…” There is a lovely cheeky sense of humour throughout – who would have thought that otters were so funny? – but also some quiet, sombre moments focussing on the hidden struggles and regrets that young people face.
The young men delivering the monologues were all fantastic – each got the tone of their piece just right. The choreography is very clever. There is not much synchronised work, instead the dancers work together to throw, catch and support each other in energetic group sequences, interspersed with paired or individual segments. The whole effect is breathtakingly impressive – there is constant movement and change of focus, and the dancers are fearless. They launch themselves off tables, chairs and ladders into the arms of their fellow dancers with utter confidence, and manage to maintain the emotion in their faces.
The use of torches in the show is wonderful. In one segment “Can you see my face?”, the only lights are small torches held by dancers to illuminate their faces as they are moved around the stage by the company, creating a haunting effect as they stare into the light constantly, regardless of their body movement – as if taking a never-ending selfie. Larger torches are used to stunning effect to light one agitated dancer at a table. The light moves around him then blinds the audience before whipping back to the table to show a different person. This gets more and more complicated and spellbinding. Again, I just can’t believe they managed this in less than a week – superb!
This is such a worthwhile scheme, and I think that the cast have bright futures ahead of them. Even if they don’t, the looks on their faces at curtain call showed that this was a life-changing experience for them, and no one can ever call them wasters again.