From The Curving Road
Trafalgar Studios 2
Pumping music, a minimal set with inner city photography hanging at the back and stylised movement fused with naturalistic performance: all the ingredients for another piece of urban realism.
Ok, so there may not be anything particularly original about Sh*t-M*x but that doesn't really matter as it's funny and poignant and a very accurate portrayal of a group teens, each with their own problems to deal with.
The characters in Sh*t-M*x are not patronised and their issues are not degraded. Maybe it's because the writer Leo Richardson who also plays Lonely Boy (LB) is not much older than the characters he writes about that you feel a genuine sympathy for these teenagers. As you're laughing at them you're also remembering exactly what it felt like to be a confused and misunderstood teenager.
Set in a park, an unlikely group of friends hang out, drink, flirt, confide and fight with each other. Closeted West End Leading man wannabe, Bent Ben (Steven Webb) with his fag-hag Raggedy Anne (Aimee-Ffion Edwards) the gothic misfit who is besotted with LB - the chav with a love of Lonsdale clothing and desperate to loose his virginity. Then there is the town bike, Dirty Debbie (Cassie Atkinson), who is more than happy to help LB with loosing his virginity but is clearly desperately seeking approval, and lastly, Harry the Hottie (Jay Taylor), LB's older brother whom everyone is in love with but he doesn't even want to contemplate who he may be attracted to.
The hanging photography flashing with graffiti images accompanied by various hip hop tunes and a dance break indicates the shift in pace or emotion of a scene. Although, eager not to take itself too seriously these "conceptual" moments are often a complete parody of this style of theatre. For example, whenever a character imagines themselves with Harry the Hotty, he appears on stage a la James Bond to the soundtrack of For Your Eyes Only or Bent Ben appearing onstage to the music of "Dream Girls" (although this isn't as far fetched as you'd think, I know more than a few men of a certain disposition who have this as the imaginary soundtrack to their lives playing in their heads). Sometimes these moments worked and others didn't as they either went on for too long or didn't quite mesh with the rest of the scene.
What really makes this play work though is some very well observed dialogue and superb performances. All five actors, whilst giving heightened portrayals, are all incredibly truthful and I could literally watch Steven Webb all day with his funny little nuances and easy manner.
Richardson is a promising new writer with some challenging ideas: it's not all musical theatre and popular culture references (although there is a lot of this). He is not afraid to take his writing to a darker place and I look forward to what comes next when he re-m*xes the sh*t.
Running to 25th October
Reviewer: Rachel Sheridan