Vera Vera Vera
Royal Court Theatre Upstairs
Anybody seeing Vera Vera Vera will probably conclude that Kent, the garden of England, is now a good place to avoid. Both groups whose meetings alternate through the hour are far too familiar with the seamy side of life and it is all quite scary.
The common denominator between them is Bobby, a soldier who came home from his first tour of duty around Helmand Province in a coffin.
The first pair that we meet are Abby Rakic-Platt as his 16-year-old cousin Charlie and her wannabe first boyfriend, Ted Riley's Sammy. They are preparing for a post-school honour fight, chatting in the foulest language, while gradually getting acquainted.
They give way to an older trio featuring the unremitting, if rather handsome, face of evil in the form of Danny. Tommy McDonnell's character is a drug dealer who delights in rubbing people up the wrong way and cannot even find a good word for the brother who has just given his life for his country.
In his company, even sister Em appears sympathetic, which is a credit to the acting abilities of Danielle Flett, as this congenital loser is a junkie with a taste for promiscuity.
They are joined by Bobby's best mate, Daniel Kendrick playing Lee. He is no paragon but does at least prevent Danny from putting up his "No Brown People Allowed" sign at the funeral.
The courting youngsters experience a serious, bruising bonding session that brings them even closer, while we begin to understand Charlie better both from oblique comments in the other scenes and from her dialogue with Sammy.
In the same way, Danny and Em are exposed so that while hardly becoming likeable, viewers can at least begin to understand a little of what makes them tick.
By portraying these people in a time of great stress, Hayley Squires also comments on the dreary lives of jobless, hopeless youngsters today and the impact that the continuing fatalities in Afghanistan can have on those directly affected.
There is not a great deal of thematic development in Vera Vera Vera, which has a tendency to feel more like an extract than a whole play. On the plus side, much of the characterisation is convincing. The dialogue is also generally sharp and, under the direction of Jo McInnes, the inexperienced, young cast all shine.
Once again, the Royal Court Young Writers Festival 2012 has brought to the fore two promising writing talents, as this play follows Luke Norris's Goodbye to All That, not to mention a team of fresh actors from whom we will hear much more.
For those that failed to get tickets for this sell-out run, Vera Vera Vera will make a reappearance at Theatre Local, Peckham in July.
Reviewer: Philip Fisher