There's a Leak!/Medea
This is a review of a double bill of an original play for young people called 'There's a Leak!' by Splendid regular Ben Hales, and Splendid's 'Medea', which were performed at Greenwich Theatre on 16 April 2012. The review was published at Broadwayworld.com
Elsa (Edie Friar) and her cat Igor (Billy Beswick) discover a hole in the pavement though which the world may just be falling. Cue a calvacade of urban stereotypes who mean well, but are really a bit, well, a bit rubbish really, before the army intervene in an ET-style denouement. Everyone on stage and in the stalls has a lot of fun and it's wrapped up in an hour - a perfect youth theatre production.
Based at Corelli College, Kidbrooke Theatre Company's performance of Ben Hales' play shows the strengths and weaknesses of teenage theatre. The energy and commitment on stage is tremendous, the enthusiasm of everyone in the seats is tangible and the laughs and applause are fully earned and heartfelt. The acting, especially in the speaking of lines in the large auditorium at Greenwich Theatre, does vary - but the teenage cast give a great hour's entertainment and to quibble would be churlish. Billy Beswick (after a tour-de-force in last year's Lysistrata, reviewed here) is the standout again, summoning the spirit of Kenneth Williams to his role as the acerbic, camp cat, Igor.
After an interval, Splendid Productions take over with a new version of Medea, aimed at teenage audiences but without compromising Euripides' brutal tale. The company of three (Kerry Frampton, Jimmy Whiteaker and Katie Fry) do a fine job in communicating with the kids, often breaking the forth wall and using the chorus to explain and introduce each scene. I didn't much care for the cod regional accents employed to get laughs - though it's not the first time I've seen it - and it did draw a line between "chorus" and "actors". Medea has much of the soap opera about it - betrayal and revenge is a staple of daytime TV of course - but this production does catch the immediacy theatre brings to its plots and pierces even the most jaded of teenage sensibilities. There was shock at Medea's filicide - as there should be.
Both productions work well for their intended audiences and lots of teenagers are in for a treat. If even 10% of them are inspired to go to the theatre as a result and 1% to try their hand at acting or production, their world (and ours) will be a better place.