There’s something in the air at the Royal Court’s Theatre Upstairs. You can smell it as soon as you enter the auditorium.
Well, that might be the pungent whiff of the Kent countryside, which comes with enough litter to give a Womble a panic attack, that has been transplanted into the intimate venue. But it’s fighting that’s in the air.
An unseen brother has been killed fighting in Afghanistan and his funeral is the spark for a couple of no-holds-barred, don’t-be-afraid-to-speak-your-mind-will-you? discussions between family and friends.
Was he the saint people remember? Should the funeral be an all-white affair? How many of his friends has his sister ‘entertained’? It’s all expletive-strewn fodder for a trio of friends and family to battle, threaten and lie their way through.
Meanwhile the dead soldier’s cousin, Charlene, is caught up in a sweetly awkward, tentatively teasing teen romance at the age where gentle ribbing counts as a compliment. That’s not without its own fighting, but this is of the more honourable schoolyard reputation-protecting variety.
A fairly inexperienced cast do a fine job with the episodic debut play from Royal Court Young Writer Hayley Squires, under the directorial guidance of Jo McInnes. Tommy McDonnell in particular is a picture of teary-evil as the grief-stricken bully of a brother intent on inflicting as much pain possible.
But for all the drama and anguish, hatred and bitterness spat into the auditorium by the trio of adults, it was the charm of young love and teenage desire that grabbed my heart. That and a near perfect reduction of Romeo And Juliet as described by a GCSE student.