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Posts Tagged ‘Anna Jordan’

I’m always up for a Frantic Assembly show, forever inventive, each show unique. I’m well into double figures now. This one has arrived at Stratford East and it was a great pleasure to sit in a mostly teenage audience and hear their silence, the best tribute I can pay to this work about those returning home from conflicts.

It interweaves the stories of George returning from the First World War in 1918, Frankie from Afghanistan in 2013 and Nat from a camp for British refugees in Norway in 2026. having fled some sort of civil war at home. George comes home a hero to his loving wife Rose, eager to start a family, but shellshocked and struggling to shake off the horrors of his experience. Frank comes home in disgrace, accused of an act of vengeance, spurned by his parents, hounded by the press. Nat comes home to scenes of devastation and destruction, looking for his younger brother caught up in one of the rebel groups.

It’s got extraordinary pace and energy, set within, outside and on top of a revolving container designed by Andrzej Goulding, with a loud soundtrack and dramatic lighting creating the atmosphere. At first I thought the scenes too short to develop the three stories, but then you realise how enthralling Anna Jordan’s play was becoming as they unfolded in this way. I felt the future story was less well developed than the other two, and the 2013 one the most dramatic and compelling, but the evening as a whole was gripping and thought-provoking, sometimes harrowing. I found myself both in disgust of, and sympathetic to, Frankie’s story in particular.

Frantic Assembly’s house style movement and physicality lends itself well to these stories, which are thrillingly staged by Neil Bettles, with the help of four excellent performances from Jared Garfield, Joe Layton, Jonnie Riordan and Kieton Saunders-Browne, who play many other characters as well as the three protagonists.

The full house of young people cheered their approval; this is the sort of work that makes theatregoers for life. Whether you’re new to this company or not, you should catch it. It was a pleasure to bring up the average age. A lot.

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The evening after a dull, pointless play by an established playwright, upstairs we have a brilliant, relevant drama by a new one. It’s a funny old time at the Royal Court. Anna Jordan’s play provides an insight into what can happen when parenting fails and it’s a raw, visceral 100 minutes which I found riveting and insightful.

Hench, 16, and Bobbie, 13, live alone in their mother’s flat whilst she’s off with her new boyfriend and often off her head too. They watch porn and play video games. They don’t have any clean clothes because they took them round to their nan’s for washing just before she ran away with an asylum seeker. They don’t have any food because they have no money to buy it (though they steal a few things). Their dog Taliban(!) stays in the flat making a mess because he’s likely to attack someone if they walk him. We meet their mum Maggie when she collapses outside drunk. Her and Bobbie adore one another, but her relationship with Hench is broken. Her only contribution to their lives is renting the flat. 16-year old new neighbour Jenny comes into their lives through her concern about the treatment of Taliban and an emotional rollercoaster unfolds.

The play shows us the inextricable link between a lack of proper parenting and the behavioural and emotional development of children, and ultimately the possible consequences of this. Played out in a traverse staging with just two rows on each of the long sides, Ned Bennett’s production has an extraordinary intensity and engagement with the characters. Alex Austin and Jake Davies play the teenagers with the wreckless physicality you expect, but Alex adds a brooding introspection appropriate to a 16-year-old and Jake a naivety and dependence more appropriate for a 13-year-old. Both performances are stunning. Sian Brecklin conveys the relationship differences and the sober / drunk behavioural differences brilliantly – you can see her love of her boys but you can’t help blaming her for their plight. Annes Elwy beautifully captures the girl from the sticks who gets caught up in their lives.

For the second time this month, a Bruntwood Prize winning play becomes a candidate for 2016’s Best New Play. A combination of fine writing, excellent staging and compelling performances. Somewhat ironic with a candidate for Turkey of the Year downstairs. Try and get yourself a return; you won’t regret it.

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