Songlines

Tallulah Brown
HighTide and DugOut Theatre
York Theatre Royal

Fresh from the Edinburgh Fringe, Songlines is a charming coming-of-age story that charts the unlikely romance that blossoms between two mismatched teenagers.

When Stevie (Fanta Barrie)—a too-cool-for-school 17-year-old—is sent to live with her grandma in Suffolk, she is understandably miffed. What is she expected to do in the “middle of nowhere”? When she meets Stan (Joe Hurst), the teenage misfit who cuts her grandma’s grass, she is less than impressed by his nerdy ways. However, the two outsiders soon find they share common ground.

Friendship eventually leads to sex, and afterwards a gulf opens up between the young lovers. Stan’s newfound popularity results in him joining a band with his former tormentors, and Stevie is shipped off to her father’s after her maths teacher attempts to steal a kiss. Will Stan and Stevie ever meet again?

Barrie and Hurst give lovely, nuanced performances as the star-crossed teenagers. They capture the awkwardness of this difficult age without overplaying the angst that goes along with it.

The play is scored throughout by award-winning folk duo TRILLS, whose lovely harmonies serve as backdrop and counterpoint to the drama that unfolds. Their lyrics often reveal the characters’ inner lives and at other times they help to conjure the play’s Sussex setting, with its history of Roman and Viking invasions.

The delicacy of Tallulah Brown’s writing is well served by Jess Bernberg’s nuanced lighting. Lizzy Leech manages to conjure different worlds with inventive visual touches, the wood panelled wall suggesting the oppressive nature of Stevie’s grandma’s house.

Songlines may be a short and simple show, but this doesn’t prevent it from being a rich and rewarding one.

James Ballands