Ticketmaster Summer in Stages

Apples

Adapted from the novel by Richard Milward by John Retallack
Company of Angels and Northern Stage
Northern Stage, Newcastle
(2010)

Production photo

I saw Apples at its very first performance at the Middlesbrough Empire at the beginning of June. Since then it has been on a twelve venue tour from Taunton to Stirling, had a stint at the Latitude Festival and now comes to Newcastle for the first time after a run at the Edinburgh Fringe.

I enthused about it back in June but I did wonder how it, and its young cast, would stand up to the rigours of more than three months of touring. Surely it would be a bit tired by now?

Not a bit of it! It's actually better. It's lost about ten minutes, having tightened up considerably. There have been changes, too, which emphasise the ensemble nature of the piece. Not that the quartet of geeky Adam (Scott Turnbull), beautiful Eve (Therase Neve), single mum Claire (Jade Byrne) and thug Gary (Louis Roberts) are any less compelling, but the other two - Dylan Edge as Burny and Abigail Moffatt as Debbie, and both in a variety of other parts - seem to have a lot more scope to put their stamp on the piece, which they do very effectively.

And the energy remains as high as ever. This is a rollercoaster of a play, cramming a huge range of emotion and incident into a mere 85 minutes and ending, not happily or sadly, but with a sense of desperation which leaves the audience gasping.

And desperation lies at the root of the play and of the lives of its protagonists. If you see this play, I can guarantee that you won't look at the youngsters who stagger drunkenly through our town and city centres on a weekend in quite the same way again.

Seeing it for a second time reveals, in a way which the first viewing did not, the cleverness of John Retallack's unobtrusive direction which, while maintaining the implacable momentum, nonetheless gives each scene its individual dynamic. Verity Quinn's design - realised by author Richard Milward - is equally unobtrusive but witty and effective.

Reviewer: Peter Lathan