Sunday, 26 October 2014

Review: Spine, Soho Theatre

“There’s nothing more terrifying than a teenager with something to say”

Amongst many things, this blog is useful for reminding me of exactly how I felt about this production or that actor but in some cases, I don’t need to be reminded. Seeing Rosie Wyatt in a solo piece for the first time (in Jack Thorne’s Bunny back in 2011) was a genuine revelation, at the time I was always unsure about monologues and hardly went to any and it is no overstatement to say she changed my mind about a whole genre – that’ll be why she was ranked as one of the top six female performances of the year for me. So it was no surprise to see me at the Soho Theatre Upstairs (again) on a dark October evening (again) to see Wyatt (again) in a solo show (again). Creatures of habit… us?

This time round it is Clara Brennan’s Spine to which she is giving her unbridled dramatic energy, inhabiting the play and the space so thoroughly that she ought to charge other people rent for coming in to use it when she’s not there. It’s quite a remarkable thing to watch, seeing her perform, as she flicks so effortlessly between the two characters of the show – ferocious but fragile Amy and perceptive pensioner Glenda – and traces the growing if unlikely friendship between the pair as circumstance thrusts them together. She demands the full attention too, some may baulk from the direct eye contact but it is such an integral part of the theatrical transaction here that it ought to be compulsory to embrace it. Be warned though, Wyatt takes literally no prisoners!

It helps that the material she is performing is so richly evocative. Full of fast and furious teenage energy as it opens with a headlong rush into the overwhelming tumult of Amy’s life – dead-end jobs, dead-end blokes, a family grinding its way through depression and poverty, troubles with what “to the untrained eye…might look like a girl gang”, it’s no wonder she rocks up on Glenda’s doorstep with a black eye and blood on her top. But far from the dippy old soul she initially seems to be, Glenda is a rebel in her own right and a beautiful kinship grows between the two, cleverly reflected by a deepening of the pace by director Bethany Pitts as Amy discovers the simple joy of taking a moment, reading a book, discovering that someone is proud of you. 

There’s much more in here besides – a savage indictment of the library cuts and more that the coalition or “posh cock club” has wreaked, a hilarious but heartening moment that ought to be a part of all sex-ed classes for teenage girls AND boys, a genuine sense of how the politics of the future could and should be shaped for the generations to come. Expertly written and expertly performed, Spine is the real deal. The Edinburgh Festival already recognised this, awarding it a Fringe First award but remember, Rosie Wyatt was a fosterIAN nominated actor first ;-) 

Running time: 65 minutes (without interval)
Playtext cost: £4
Booking until 2nd November


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