Sunday, 1 May 2022

REVIEW: If. Destroyed. Still. True. at The Hope Theatre

No matter where you come from or where you choose to live, the concept of home or where one identifies with throughout their lifetime is in constant flux. Moments of growth are met with moments of stagnation, people we love move at different speeds and even when some sort of peace is made, there is no way of knowing how something unexpected might unravel everything you know. In the intimate space of The Hope Theatre, Jawbones, an upcoming young company celebrating new writing, attempts to start a conversation about these feelings of disconnection in their latest production If. Destroyed. Still. True.

The play is set on the coast of Essex in a small town where everyone knows each other's business. It is here we meet John (Jack Condon) a born and bred local young man, who, like a kid on Christmas Day is revelling in the return of his best friend James (Theo Ancient) who has moved away for Uni. It becomes evident early on, however, that with little direction in his life John can't quite move on from the fun and chaos of their adolescence while James has clearly settled into his newfound academic life with a steady girlfriend Charlotte (Whitney Kehinde) by his side. A divide opens up between the two friends and each struggles with feelings of resentment, loss, a longing for the past and/or future and ultimately, the uncertainty of life becomes overwhelming for both when tragedy marks their final chapter. At the heart of the story is a friendship between two young men who have grown disparate from one another yet at the same time are forever connected by the tangled roots of their youth.

This three-hander play is the writing debut of Jack Condon (who also plays John) and is directed by Sarah Stacey who specialises in new developments. Together they make a solid team which is further upheld by the consistent and strong performances from Kehinde and Ancient. It’s evident that the brash and laddish language that flows through Condon’s writing and performance comes from an acute understanding of those who own such a voice.

The story itself is not a new one but highlights the need for more conversation around male depression, loneliness and mental health. The character of Charlotte offers a female counterpoint to this exploration of masculinity but her story is never fully explained. She tends to act as more of a vehicle to understand the identity crisis experienced by James between his old existence in Essex and the new middle-class life being presented to him.

The lighting design by Gabriel Finn is simple and effective as lightbulbs flicker above the action like stars in the sky marking the scale of our existence in contrast to the universe we inhabit. The sound design by Joseff Harris offers a backdrop for the Essex landscape inhabited by the characters, although, the work could benefit from more confidence in moments of silence. All three actors could defiantly hold more space than they were given the opportunity to at times.

With a running time of 70 minutes, this work maintains pacing and flow, which for the most part makes you wonder where the time went. The ending, however, is the only part that feels slightly overwritten and dilutes the impact of the themes explored.

This is a human story, with no concrete questions or answers being presented but instead, the chaos that lurks behind the choices we make in life. If this is Condon’s first play then I can only imagine his future as a writer will be one of much success.

Review by Stephanie Osztreicher 

Rating: ★★★★

Seat: NA | Price of Ticket: £13
Blog Design by pipdig