The One with the Oven
Royal Court Theatre Upstairs: Young Writers' Festival 2002
Review by Philip Fisher
The final play in the Royal Court's Young Writers Festival 2002 is also the longest. It is a seemingly autobiographical tale about a 25 year-old woman trapped in Bromley. Sarah is not really sure about what she wants - she is doing an English degree and loves to read Sylvia Plath but. given half a chance, she would rather go down to the Biba nightclub and get off her trolley with her mates, Sam and Sophie.
The award-winning young director Joseph Hill-Gibbins is already making a name for himself with work about the excesses of the young. With great assistance from designer, Simon Daw, whose roll on/roll off set ensures that scene changes are incredibly slick, he draws good performances from his cast and in particular, Liz White as Sarah.
Hill-Gibbins does his best to keep his young cast going through a series of drunken nights on the town. The three young men and three young women each have problems of their own but in reality three of them melt away as the others develop more complex relationships.
Sarah may be sweet and intelligent when she's sober but she becomes violent and abusive once she has a few Bacardi Breezers inside her. This gives actress Liz White a chance to shine as she rants and raves at her loving friends and at society.
In fact, what she should be attacking is her own personality that does not allow her to love those who would die for the opportunity to reciprocate. Quite why the charming and sensitive but very shy Jake played by Daniel Mays and the black, relatively well-educated Si (Marcel McCalla) should be in love with Sarah is a bit of a mystery.
This becomes even more baffling as the attractive Sam (Jo Joyner) is clearly so desperate to find any kind of man on each trip to Biba's. As a kind of balance against these dysfunctional and unhappy twenty-somethings, Emma Rosoman also throws in a happy couple, Billy and Sophie, who spend most of their time trying to nurse their friends' egos.
While much of the writing is ultra realistic and it is possible to understand some of Sarah's problems and discomfort with her life, the play eventually becomes too long a series of drunken nights and violent rants. The concept of 'in Breezer veritas' as a means of understanding the youth of today is theoretically good. In this case, it would have benefited from some severe pruning which could have thrown the key relationships into far sharper focus.