Box Clever Theatre in association with ARC
York Theatre Royal and touring
Box Clever are a writer-led company, dedicated to working on projects that are interesting and relevant to young people. In Dirty Kissing, they revolve the story around a 17 year old girl's relationship with her single parent father, and her fledgling relationship with Ion, the new immigrant. The plot involves power, drugs, lust, love, racial tension and revenge. If this wasn't a modern day setting there would be all the ingredients of a traditional revenger's tragedy.
'Scott wants power. Aran wants a quite life. Dad wants another fix. Shaz wants Abi. Abi wants Ion. And Ion wants revenge' goes the tag line. From various perspectives and a jumping time line, we see the unfolding story of Abi, Dad, Ion and Aran, and how their lives entangle with Shaz and Scott. Although Box Clever seem at first to use some rather easily recognisable characters in the small time gangsters Shaz and Scott, even these two develop to having a back story and real human element, and writer Michael Wicherek does nothing to patronise his audience.
Fascinatingly Wicherek also incorporates drug use in Dad's (Sean Kearney) story in that the father is addicted to pain killers and therefore this takes Dirty Kissing far away from being just another story about young people getting into drug use. And Kearney gives a splendid performance, fighting both his cravings for the pain killers and his efforts to hold on to Abi before she grows up.
Abi (Elizabeth Cadwallader) is a perfect depiction of a girl wise beyond her years and yet still looking for that protection which her parent can no longer offer her, as he himself crumbles. She comes across the older Ion (Emmanuel Brierley) and falls in love with him, and yet Ion is travelling his own course to achieve revenge. Cadwallader and Brierley depict a love story that remains with its feet firmly on the ground, and is all the more affecting for it.
Box Clever's production is full of both reality and poetry in that the characters often return to verse in their soliloquies, but most of all in their excellent movement pieces directed by Georgina Lamb (associate of Frantic Assembly) all set to Virgil Howe's hip-hop/electro sound track. Director Iqbal Khan keeps Howe on stage throughout offering a DJ-ing backdrop to this fast moving, fast thinking production.
This might be young people's theatre but, while being accessible, it is never condescending nor narrow focused: this is a must see for both young and old alike - an excellently done, truly impacting and unsentimental production. However, if you're seeing this production at York Theatre Royal Studio, you would be well advised to avoid the side, top row of seats which were a little blocked by their low levelled set of travelling suitcases. Other than that, Box Clever have indeed produced a clever and out of the box thinking production, well worth seeing.
Playing at York until Thursday 22nd, then the Duke's, Lancaster on Friday 23rd and Saturday 24th
Reviewer: Cecily Boys