Paul Harvard’s play ties in a number of important issues but needs extra time to explore some of them in greater detail.
As theatre slowly comes back to life in London, it is wonderful to have the opportunity to see brand new writing stage live again.
Paul Harvard’s new emotionally complex play covers themes such as grief, mental health, drugs and the struggle to move forward with life in the wake of tragedy. This is all seen through the eyes of Robert, whose dad has recently died and has been numbing his pain with drugs and trying to focus on his relationship with Sergi. But he is also being haunted by recent events in which young men are dying unexpectedly.
In terms of the writing it is suitably sensitive in the way in which it handles difficult issues such as mental health and grief as seen through the relationships that Robert has with his mother, partner and friend but it does feel as though that further detail could be gone into – particularly with the mysterious deaths of young men across East London that doesn’t feel as though it is fully resolved.
But it is presented with great focus and intensity thanks to Jon Pashley’s well choreographed production that allows the audience to see just how deeply connected all the characters are to each other. In particular, the scenes in which Robert talks to his mum about his father and best friend Jasminder about his relationship with Sergi seem particularly sharp in revealing just how vulnerable and self-destructive he is.
The dark undertones of the story are wonderfully highlighted thanks to Tony Simpson’s hauntingly effective lighting, that captures the intensity of particularly tense moments beautifully. Meanwhile, the movement direction by Gerrard Martin is wonderfully fluid, allowing the characters to feel still connected even if it is in a different way that has to be adapted to these new times.
Throughout it all, the cast pay great care and attention to the details of their characters. Leading the way is Jimmy Essex as Robert, who manages to capture the emotional complexities of the character with great ease and sensitivity. Every emotion is expressed with great vividness that it is not difficult to be swept into his world and story.
Elsewhere, there is also great support from Aryana Ramkhalawon as the forthright and loyal Jasminder. It is a performance that really conveys the balance of a character being confrontational with trying to be as supportive as possible just right. Devesh Kishore also stands out as the warm and gently encouraging Simon who ensures that Robert starts to open up through art.
Overall, it is an emotionally complex piece that has many elements that make it compelling to watch but does leave a few questions that feel left unanswered story wise.
By Emma Clarendon