BASSETTTomorrow's Talent at The Queen's Theatre Hornchurch
James Graham – whose This House won huge acclaim a few years ago – has written an intense drama for NT Connections. This is Wootton Bassett, famous for the repatriation processions which brought our boys back in coffins from the Middle East.
Today, students of Wootton Bassett School should be saluting Charlie, one of their own, another casualty of the Iraq war. Head Boy, hero, idol, Danny Zuko in the high school musical. But they are locked in their classroom, abandoned by a supply teacher at the end of her tether.
The tensions mount, beliefs are questioned, secrets revealed as the live feed is projected from Graeme's [Matthew Hockley] laptop. It's a powerful piece, if lacking in subtlety. Written for a cast of 14, where perhaps ten would have made for a tighter drama.
Directors Gavin Wilkinson and Amy Trigg shape the scene skilfully; the fears, the friendships and the dangerously volatile atmosphere are reflected in the groupings and the stage pictures.
Excellent performances all round: Kelly, outspoken and self-assured, is played by Holly Hosler-White. Academic, pedantic Jonathon by Samuel Wolstenholme. Selfish [supply and demand] Russell is convincingly portrayed by Christopher Tierney, Lucy, breaking her silence to trigger the dramatic dénouement, by Hannah Gurling.
A tremendous performance from Dominic Short as Leo, spray cans and baseball bat in his school bag, who's revealed as a racist, homophobic bully. His confrontations with Amid, the only Muslim in the school [Paul French], are electric. And just before we hear the key turn in the lock of the classroom door, he stands centre stage, reaching out to Charlie's coffin on the screen, as Spencer [Scott Olley], who's spent the entire time with his face to the wall, reads more history from Wikipedia, hesitantly praising Great Britain for standing up to the Axis bullies.
No easy answers in this Citizenship class. The students are forced to confront their tribal beliefs, to question the politics that has sacrificed the lives behind the “repats”.
This evening at the Queen's – partner theatre for the National Theatre's Connections500 – also featured Felsted Theatre Company, directed by Lauren Macey, in Stacey Gregg's I'm Spilling My Heart Out Here, which, like her Perve of 2011, deals with the loss of innocence. “What happened to childhood? - The internet.”