Theatre in Wales

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Tales from Teenagers: The Real Thing

The Best of Touring Theatre

Click- Mess up the Mess , Lyric Theatre Carmarthen , September 7, 2011
The Best of Touring Theatre by Click- Mess up the Mess There cannot have been a playwright in Britain who has had a busier summer 2011 than Dafydd James. “The Village Social” opens in a few weeks’ time. “Llwyth” scored in Edinburgh and prepares for a new tour. His translation of “Deffro’r Gwanwyn” is headed for the Weston Studio in December. And he has been a regular visitor to Brynaman to help Mess up the Mess turn “Click” from multi-layered, cross-continental project into production.

“Click” is fresh, funny, warm, bitter-sweet. It has the authentic tang of today. It is performed by its twelve-strong cast with poise and assurance. Their ages are fifteen, sixteen. Lady Gaga, Richard Ashcroft and others sing on the soundtrack. Its teenage characters are at ease with their sexuality. The quality of their relationships- tentative, exploratory, open - is universal. These intertwined tales from teenagehood feel like the real thing.

Artistic director Sarah Jones and assistant director Claire Hathway put their cast on stage pre-lights-down. They loll on a gaming chair, lie on a rug, sprawl on a wicker chair, text, work out with weights. Lucy Tootle’s Ellie is immersed in Shakespeare. Grounded for being found out with a bourbon and coke she finds a cyber-friend in May Auyeung’s George in Hong Kong. George is all stripes and frills with pink highlights in her hair.

Meanwhile surf dude brother, Russ Beer’s Sam, is in Australia in a developing relationship with Tashy Tylka’s Cathy back home. Dan Morgan’s Isaac- “the queer from the farm”- is on Gaydar. He is in chat with a none too charming character with the moniker Bulldog2000.

Taylor Spencer’s black bomber-jacketed David has that familiar sweep of fringe that hovers over the eyebrows. He and fellow bully, Sam Dighton’s Craig, pick on Llyr Williams’ smaller James. On the large screen social network dialogue is spelt out at speed. Welsh Ninja is a video character gone viral and seen across the world. He runs, whizzes across walls and playgrounds, goes past Sydney’s Opera House, cruises by on a car roof.

Most affecting of all is the surprise relationship between Katie Searle’s Vicky and Kieren Jones’ Abe. She is a teenage mother, has already appeared on Jeremy Kyle, and is wary of words like “pedantic”. “Is that rude? It sounds kind of slutty.” He is fourteen, a trailer-living gypsy, musing over his sexuality. The relationship is unpatronising in both writing and performance.

Dafydd James’ script breathes warmth and humour. A newborn baby is compared in texture to that of a soggy biscuit. A three-way conversation mistakenly gives rise to a declaration of love from brother to sister. “Hey, that’s cyber-incest.” Towards the close, six of the cast form into three dancing couples. For no particular reason they speak in rhyming couplets with an opening from Shakespeare. One of them comments that speaking in rhyme he “feels a proper knob.”

But these teenage lives also include tears of loss, an act of violence, deception, taunting. “How do you like my pics?” asks one. “Is Shrek” appear the words on the screen “a close or a distant relative?”

The Divine Comedy’s “the Certainty of Chance” runs throughout. Chaos theory, the butterfly in Brazil that ignites a hurricane, is metaphor for this world. We are all alone, runs an opening line, with just these currents of electricity to connect us. Grief is possible, as shown by Sam, for a person you may never have met. When George makes the trip to Wales- “I’m an Asian, not an alien”- she wonders about relationships bereft of smell or touch.

“Click” is the outcome of a project “Strangers 2”. Led by Mess up the Mess it links with the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts, New Zealand’s Inspired Productions and Australia’s Theatre for Young People. Much else preceded the staging. Should it re-emerge after this week the script could be trimmed by maybe ten minutes. It has one or two media and television references too many.

The cast is completed by Lynsey Rees and Cerain Fitzgerald. Peri Thomas produces. Carolina Vasques is multimedia artist. “Click” is intensely of Wales, but belongs to the bigger world too. It is everything youth theatre should be. It cheered me immensely.

“Click” continues to Abergavenny, Chapter and Ammanford 8th-13th September

Reviewed by: Adam Somerset

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