Apples

Tue 22nd – Sat 26th November 2011

reviews

Abigail Rees

at 00:01 on 23rd Nov 2011

1agrees

1disagrees

The garden of Eden transposed to modern-day Middlesbrough, the temptations facing the six teenagers (including two named, not overly subtly, Adam and Eve) in John Retallack’s adaptation of Richard Milward’s novel ‘Apples’ are cider and ecstasy rather than talking snakes. The well-written script, with moments of hilarity and genuine emotion, as well some fantastic performances, made what could have been a fairly mediocre premise – ‘teenage problems’ is the theme of many a GCSE Drama piece – into a funny and at times affecting play well worth watching.

Shifting between the viewpoints, expressed through monologue, of six fifteen year olds growing up on a council estate allowed well for a similar shifting of tone between bawdy humour, cutting comments on modern adolescence and heartache, with uniformly astute observations of all aspects. Among a strong cast, Joe Bayley played an admirably awkward and tender Adam, with a masterful stutter and comic timing which had the tiny BT audience producing huge waves of laughter, along with brilliant lines such as that in praise of “the one with the boobies from the Magical Mystery Tour’. His impeccable comic talent was matched only by Howard Coase’s sublime and bizarre cameo as a sexually frustrated butterfly. Another highlight was Josh Entecott as the conscience-less Gary hardened by society, utterly believable in his graphic misogyny.

The cast’s Middlesbrough accents were almost without exception consistently convincing, though the sense of artifice created by even the smallest slips, along with moments of rather clumsy stage fighting and two quite unconvincing onstage sex scenes didn’t quite allow the evening’s emotional moments to reach the heights its comic ones were able to: the consistently low volume of music, to allow dialogue to be spoken over it, also hindered the creation of emotion, and while costume and prop changes were usually slick, they too in their blandness seemed to undermine a little the play’s more consciously ‘hard-hitting’ aspects. The slightly false note occasionally struck here was as well perhaps due to the script: slightly self-consciously gritty, the combination of baby-killing, lung cancer and domestic abuse at times threatened a resemblance to Hollyoaks, though always brought back from the danger of cliché by the talented cast and snappy direction moving scenes on.

Much more entertaining than a plot description would initially suggest, ‘Apples’ is witty and biting presentation of teenage life brought to life by a talented cast.

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Aakash Balani

at 09:21 on 23rd Nov 2011

2agrees

1disagrees

Think Skins. Think Kidulthood. The grey skies and the grim reality that do not seem very distant from the confusion and lust that punctuates the life of British youth today. Rebecca Kinder, the director has done complete justice to the narrative, and to the script of Richard Milward. A particular highlight was the very effective way in which the sequence of events were portrayed that built up to the tragic, sad conclusion for Claire, played by Ellie Geldard.

It was the classic formula for tragedy. A turn of events, punctuated giving subtle hints, preparing the audience for the tragic nature the story of Claire takes. There is a certain inevitability to it, which is grasped by the audience, yet the anticipation of whether it would well and truly happen or not keeps you on the edge. Only in the few moments before Claire does what now always seemed like the inevitable, is everything suddenly all clear, there is catharsis, where all of one’s emotions are purged. The fact that the viewer goes through such an gripping experience, speaks a lot of excellent directorial techniques by Rebecca bringing out the elements of a well written script.

Of course, Rebecca’s direction is complemented by some very strong performances, like ones by Lucie Cox, who portrays one of the main protagonists Eve. But Joe Bayley, who plays the character of Adam, deserves a mention for his outstanding work of playing the character of Adam. His performance weaves the viewer to looking at their world through his own eyes and through the eyes of a witness to a series of nefarious events, that do not seem very far off from what we some of us see around us in our lives or in the lives of people we know. It is a testament to Joe’s performance that the viewer not only engages the most with, Adam, who is not necessarily the most rational, ordinary or conventional person you would meet, but also are able to see the world through his eyes, so easily, no matter how far in reality the viewers perspectives may differ. Needless to say, there is excellent character interaction on stage – the dynamics between Claire and her friends is near perfect!

Lighting was used very well, according to the situation, which varied from the sunkissed beaches of Majorca to the grey autumn of Middlesborough and I compliment the lighthing because even though it was vastly different, it was very subtle. Perhaps if I had to find a criticism, and I am nitpicking here, it would be about the minimal use of props in the play. But I must say, the strong and powerful imagery in the dialogues, rendered by very accomplished deliveries by the actors set the mood and the scene in the viewer’s mind much better than any prop possibly could!

Sex, drug abuse, teenage pregnancy, violence and more sex and their unfortunate consequences are recurring themes in the play. A gripping tale, very well enacted, a must watch – but not for the faint hearted!

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