Shook

August 17, 2021 | By | Reply More

★★★★☆    Stirring

theSpace Triplex (Venue 38): Sun 8 – Sat 28 Aug 2021
Review by Hugh Simpson

There is a raw, aching vacuum at the heart of Shook from New Celts and Twisted Corners at theSpace Triplex. Not because anything is missing in a particularly well written and excellently acted play; instead, it reflects the emptiness of wasted lives in the young offenders it portrays.

Samuel Bailey’s play (a previous winner of the Papatango Prize for new writing) has had its setting moved to Scotland and specifically HMYOI Polmont. This transition has been handled creditably, and virtually everything about it works.

Kieran Begley (Cain), Rebecca Morgan (Grace), Ryan Stoddart (Ryan) and William Dron (Jonjo). Pic: Rachel Duncan

The three male characters are all taking a class in basic parenting, despite their belief that they will never be allowed to be any kind of father to their children. Cain and Ryan are outwardly all comic swagger and bluster, with their absorption in swapping Chupa Chups for foam bananas betraying the fact that they are really children themselves.

Details of what they did to deserve incarceration are sketchy; we learn more in the case of the withdrawn Jonjo. The script does feature its share of strong language, including sexist and homophobic outbursts, but its exploration of masculinity is unusually subtle in many ways.

Indeed, it is the female character – the instructor Grace – who is responsible for any insight into their situations the boys may achieve. However, such insights are hard-won and partial, with it being made clear that their futures are very much circumscribed.

Rebecca Morgan, as well as playing Grace with commendable subtlety, directs with economy and considerable flair. A great deal of thought has gone into the staging, with props, set design and costumes – all credited to the company as a whole – being very impressive.

apparent reticence

Kieran Begley gives Cain real energy, with his determination to ‘banter’ barely masking huge reserves of pent-up rage and self-hatred. Ryan Stoddart’s Ryan, torn between a need to appear top dog and a desire to continue his education, is a similarly successful portrayal, with another combination of laddish bravado and insecurity.

William Dron is excellent as Jonjo, whose apparent reticence makes him an obvious target for bullying, but whose huge internal anger is a clear danger to himself and others.

The characters could easily have come out as stereotypes, but instead are thoroughly believable. This is helped by the way they are played here – there is often a danger that too ‘actorly’ or polite a performance can undermine such portrayals, but here they are absolutely note perfect.

There have been many impressive productions from the Acting For Stage and Screen graduates at Napier and Queen Margaret over the years under the umbrella of New Celts; this is certainly one of the very best.

Running time 1 hour 25 minutes (no interval)
theSpace Triplex, The Prince Phillip Building, Hill Pl, EH8 9DP (venue 38)
Sunday 8 – Saturday 28 August 2021 (even dates only)
Even dates only: 1.10 pm
Information and tickets at https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/shook
Facebook: @TwistedCorners
Twitter: @Twisted_Corners

ENDS

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