Three lads from Bromley find their Saturday night pint-drinking competition rudely interrupted by an event that will shatter their lives in Ali Taylor’s punchy, gripping play at the Soho theatre.
The stage is bare except for three boulders. Using these as their only props, three 20-year-old lads tell their story direct to the audience in this highly physical and visual production.
They are best mates: Potts (Danny Worters), the nerdy one who works in a sports shop; Finch (Paul Stocker), the wannabe soldier with buckets of bravado and a knife in his pocket; Baron (Syrus Lowe), a sensitive soul with uncool ambitions to be a lawyer and fall in love. All three are naïve and unprepared to cope with the events of one Friday which shatter their regular night out and quickly spiral into a nightmare.
When the first bomb goes off, in their beloved Maccie D’s, they are awed bystanders, shocked by the destruction but also drawn to it. Hanging about at the site of the first bomb, they are present when the second goes off the following day. Their reaction – to assume they are suspects and to run, without giving explanation – leads them down a sickening path. Backed into a corner, they react out of naivety and panic and, convinced they have seen the real bomber, take justice into their own hands without considering the consequences.
Taylor’s script, littered with references to Bromley’s real-life pubs, clubs and shops, is bang up to date and snappily written. But the success of this minimalist production lies in the hands of the three actors, whose fast, physical and often hilarious performance conjures vivid images of the story they are telling. The three boulders become bollards in the town centre of Bromley, seats on a bus, a television and chairs in Baron’s mum’s house, and a cowering victim in a rough Bromley pub. Director Tim Roseman’s use of slow motion and freeze frames, coupled with Fergus O’Hare’s clever sound, gives the story an eerie, sinister feel as the lads get deeper and deeper into trouble. It is an almost childlike way of storytelling, which is effective in showing how, for all their swagger, these are three 20-year-olds whose experience in life is limited to boozing in Bromley and who are like rabbits in headlights when the wider world infiltrates their small town lives.
While also exploring the wider issues of mass hysteria and mob culture in the face of terrorism, Taylor’s play is at its heart a story of friendship and loss of innocence centring on ordinary lads who are out of their depth.