A stage bathed in lurid pink and lime green light, heart-pounding dance music and a backdrop which mixes a rural scene with images of teenage life, immediately shout youth as the audience enters the Bush theatre, now with restored lighting after its flooding issues earlier in the year. But there is more to Joel Horwood’s new drama than kids getting their rocks off.
Like successful teen drama Skins, which even gets a mention in the script, I Caught Crabs In Walberswick focuses on teenagers – 16 year olds Wheeler, Fitz and Dani –who, caught somewhere between childhood and adulthood, and are trying to find themselves and their place in the world.
Set on the eve of best friends Fitz and Wheeler’s final GCSE, the local Suffolk boys meet the posh, out-of-town Dani while crabbing. An old hand at persuading boys to do her bidding, Dani soon has them eating out of her hand as the trio embarks on an evening which, like Suffolk’s less exotic answer to Y Tu Mama Tambien, will change their lives forever.
Horwood’s play, full of delightfully slick patter that rarely seems out of place in the mouths of teenagers, is broken into a series of short scenes as 24 tumultuous hours in the lives of the teenagers and their parents are played out. The parents are just as much a part of the story as the teenagers, and just as troubled. While one father finds control by flying long distance air simulations, others resort to medication, but none are as happy and settled as they seem.
That said, the kids could be anyone. Gemma Soul’s Dani feels the wait of expectation from her upper middle class parents who expect great things from her private school education. Harry Hepple’s fast talking Wheeler is gifted with an aptitude for the academic and thinks everything is easy for everyone, while Aaron Foy’s Fitz, with an enigmatic grin reminiscent of Satan in a playful mood, is all too aware that it isn’t.
As the plot unfolds and the teenagers find adventure among (design company) takis’s minimal building block set, the fact that their lives lie at a crossroads becomes more and more apparent. GCSEs, college or not, 16 and with the world or just a life in Walberswick ahead of them, this is a moment in time that will change them forever, where childhood is lost amid alcohol, drugs and, paradoxically, the need to actually be children after all.