Afterparty

August 20, 2021 | By | Reply More

★★★★☆    Lairy

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

Packed with expletives and off-colour observations, Afterparty from New Celts Productions and F-Bomb Theatre at the theSpace’s Triplex theatre pulls no punches in its humorous but bitter-sweet story set in small town Scotland.

Rachel O’Regan’s new script for F-Bomb Theatre follows five teenagers as they celebrate their final day at the secondary school of a dead-end post-industrial town. This will be the blow-out party to end all blow-out parties. Inevitably, it will go horribly wrong, and when it does there will be consequences.

Emily Pemberton, Annie Welsh, Linzi Devers and Kirsten Hutchison. Pic Hannah McEachern

Hannah McEachern directs at pace and with clear intent while O’Regan’s script digs down into the reality behind the surface cliches of her characters. The plot here is pretty irrelevant, it’s the humanity which counts.

The cast rise to the task, creating characters who relish the chance to shock and scandalise as they direct their opening salvo straight at the audience.

Such teenage posturing might be as much for effect as anything else but there is also a solid understanding of how to swear on stage. No mealy mouths here. These are young women who, when it comes to spitting lines at each other, mean every bloody word of it, right? Right!

subtle and complex

The clear success of this whole production is the way every actor on stage uses their performing skills to convey the subtle and complex realities of their character; the dark truths behind the surface bluster. Although some need to be more subtle while, for others, there is a certain amount of signposting involved.

Which is not say that O’Regan has written particularly new or, indeed, surprising characters. Linzi Devers’s Jess is not the sharpest tool in the box; Sally Cairns’s Lexi wants to do well in her exams; Kirsten Hutchison’s Corrie wants to paaartay, likes; Annie Welsh’s Ella lives off her rich dad; and Emily Pemberton’s Rhiannon looks on: cool, bright and a bit above it.

Annie Welsh, Kirsten Hutchison, Linzi Devers Sally Cairns and Emily Pemberton. Pic Hannah McEachern

What is interesting here is their development. O’Regan hints at Lexi’s unease as the party becomes increasing drunken, that Rhiannon has way more going on than it appears, that there is an instinct behind Jess’s more glaikit utterances and the hollow centres to Corrie and Ella’s very different lives.

But she leaves it to the actors and director to tease these aspects out. Sally Cairns has most to do with the slightly underwritten Lexi, but succeeds brilliantly in creating a character who isn’t just a swot, but who wants to party as much as any of them, while seeing her academic success as her ticket out.

Kirsten Hutchison, lairily atavistic as she bounces in, creates in Corrie the sort of girl you’d not want to bump into on your own behind the bike sheds. She is the born leader when it comes to partying, always up for another drink. Anything to stop going home. Although it is more tell than show when it comes to the revelations of her own background and, on a technical level, Hutchison isn’t always audible when Corrie is quieter.

sympathetic on her own terms

Linzi Devers is commendably moon-faced when it comes to Jess. Happy to be the butt of others’ jokes – and not even realising that she is, with her factual malapropisms about the world. It is easy to laugh at her, but Devers succeeds in the tough task of establishing a character who is sympathetic on her own terms.

When it comes to sponging off daddy, Annie Welsh does an excellent job in referencing Alexis from Schitt’s Creek in her creation of Ella, while creating a character who is very much her own. And while the totality of Ella’s backstory doesn’t quite ring true, the vacuum it implies certainly does.

Kirsten Hutchison, Sally Cairns and Emily Pemberton. Pic Hannah McEachern

There is rather more cliche to Rhiannon’s backstory than feels completely necessary, but Emily Pemberton creates the most rounded and satisfying character of the piece. As the supercilious, self-appointed outsider, she has most to play with but she does it very well indeed.

The basic plot may be slender – with its twist not hugely surprising – but that just leaves plenty of room to give it real flesh and bones. And under McEachern’s direction it is told with a fresh eye, plenty of ribald laughter and no little verve in the telling. While the colour and shade of small town existence – which is the real story here – is filled in with enthusiasm and understanding.

Running time: 1 hour 5 minutes (no interval)
theSpace Triplex, The Prince Phillip Building, Hill Pl, EH8 9DP (venue 38)
Sunday 8 – Saturday 28 August 2021 (even dates only)
4.50 pm (even dates only)
Tickets and details: https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/afterparty

Company website: https://fbombtheatre.co.uk/
Facebook: @fbombtheatre
Twitter: @fbombtheatre
Instagram: @fbombtheatre

ENDS

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