Badnuff

Richard Davidson
Soho Theatre
(2004)

Badnuff is set in a school for the dregs who can't even manage in special units. Presided over by the patient and sympathetic Maggie (Raquel Cassidy) and Head Tom (David Harewood), four dysfunctional teenagers let the hormones rip as sexual tensions overflow.

In an added twist, the relational problems hit the two seemingly responsible adults just as badly as their charges. At times as anger flashes around everyone, it can be difficult to tell who are the teachers and who the pupils.

In Liz Cooke's symbolically appropriate run-down set with optimistic green shoots, the problems start with the arrival of posh Goth Jay (Rachel Harvey), fresh from a convent. She is overly-knowing but drives exhibitionist Brendan (Josef Altin) and fiery Lanny (Michael Obiora) wild. There is then an inevitable reaction from sluttish Patsy (Petra Letang) and fireworks ensue.

Director Jonathan Lloyd does a very good job with his cast and it is to his credit that not only do the two experienced actors convince but so do all of the newer talents. There is also an exciting soundscape designed by Matt Mackenzie.

Badnuff is often funny and sometimes shocking. At its best, it gets under the skins of almost all of its characters, even if some lack much of a back story. It is also well constructed although in an attempt to prove a few points, Richard Davidson contrives an unlikely ending that does no justice to what is otherwise a very entertaining play.

Philip Fisher