Kae Tempest
MICA Theatre
Brockley Jack Studio Theatre

Ruaridh Mollica and Seraphina Beh in Wasted Credit: MICA Theatre
Ted Reilly in Wasted Credit: MICA Theatre
Ruaridh Mollica in Wasted Credit: MICA Theatre
Ted Reilly and Isabella Verrico in Wasted Credit: MICA Theatre
Seraphina Beh in Wasted Credit: MICA Theatre
Wasted Credit: Press image

Usually there is a little zing of pride when a local playwright’s work turns up in your neighbourhood theatre.

It is there with Wasted but its South East London-set story has such a rib-breaking punch of authenticity to it that the arrival of Kae Tempest’s work at the Brockley Jack Studio Theatre comes with a hint of sadness.

It is a contemporary tragedy of three young people whose lives are on a loop. Some weekends they escape reality by getting wasted on drugs in Peckham, and sometimes they will wake up to an epiphany of how things could be different, but nothing changes.

Economically crafted, Wasted showcases many of the talents of its award-winning writer, who is also a poet, author, lyricist, performer and recording artist, but above all Tempest stands out as a writer who knows how to elevate ordinary words.

In this production, their poetry and prose are in the mouths of four talented young actors playing late twenty-somethings, Danny, Charlotte, and Temi, who gather at the tree planted in memory of their friend Tony as they mark the tenth anniversary of his death.

Ted Reilly plays would-be pop star Danny as the asshole he is but makes him likeable enough so that Seraphina Beh’s Temi would try to help him out of his truth-denying stagnation. Beh comes into her own during a call with her partner, where her inflection and timing express the agony of freely relinquishing agency.

Isabella Verrico plays deluded teacher Charlotte who can see a future she wants to escape. She gives her an appealing brightness making it all the more tragic that like the others she cannot realise her dreams.

Ruaridh Mollica is a gentle Tony, a sort of father confessor and bystander watching his friends waste their lives in drugs and premature, self-harming nostalgia.

Those who know the play will spot that director, Toby Clarke, has taken a “new perspective” on the piece, gender-swapping Ted for Temi, and allowing Tony a more obvious presence in the action, often acting as a catalyst.

Presumably, since there is no designer credit, it is Clarke’s vision to use a pop band’s kit as the set. It is quietly touching when Tony positions the microphone stand and sits beneath it creating the memorial tree, but is given best effect as they assemble and disassemble the instruments in line with the narrative, creating a combat zone of overturned keyboards and estranged bits of drum kit.

Wasted should be on the National Curriculum, it is a masterclass of youthful self-destruction which, like the best theatre, has the power to change lives.

But of course you don’t have to be young to recognise a wake-up call when it arrives and still squander the chance it gives you. In that sense, young Tempest, just 26 years old when they wrote this début play, speaks to everyone of unfulfilled intents and lives un-lived.

Reviewer: Sandra Giorgetti

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