Freedom. One simple word but a minefield of opinion and consequences. A driver for human rights but conversely often the excuse given for war, Freedom is not easy to definitively define. This emotive word provides the link for two pieces of work by the New Wolsey Theatre’s Young Company. The first half a staging of Edward Bond’s look at the futility of war, Freedom; the second act a devised response from the Young Company to the themes of the first.
It proves to be an inspired combination, full of poignant emotion and reflection.
Bond’s Passion was originally written for CND in 1971, a bleak examination of Governmental escalation of weaponry played against the human loss of life.
Bond’s script is absurd in tone but, beneath the comedy is a dark heart. Rob Salmon’s production stages the piece as a surreal cabaret and the detachment of the action highlights the futility of the situation. As a grieving mother comes to terms with the loss of her soldier son, a politician and monarch plan how they can annihilate an unseen enemy.
An all-male ensemble deliver performances of exceptional maturity with particularly impressive performances from an intense Liam Cadzow Webb as the dead soldier, Sam Hume as his grief-stricken mother and Calum Bateman as a Cameron-eqsue Prime Minister. Highlight of the first half, however, has to be Jack Brett’s cross-dressed Queen – a performance of immense physicality matched by a precise vocal delivery that makes this mad monarch totally believable.
Demo, the second act devised response to the themes of Passion, turns out to be a deeply personal and beautifully articulated look at the hopes and dreams of today’s youth. Laura Norman’s direction allows the voices of the company to come to the fore.
Through a mix of monologues, movement and group work we learn what freedom means to this company of young actors, the opportunities it offers them but also the fear it instils.
There are some deeply moving moments as one by one the company tell us of their moments of freedom but perhaps more poignantly the tales of their perceived failings; fears about looks, loneliness, expectation and belonging, all painting a picture of a group of teenagers uncertain of their future.
It’s an uncertainty that, based on this performance, is perhaps unfounded – the group turn out to be a coherent and strong voice for the future.
If there’s one small criticism over the piece is that the hopes and fears could perhaps look at a wider socio-economic group, with the reflections seeming overwhelmingly middle class tales; an opportunity missed to contrast the challenges of those in more deprived areas. It’s a small gripe, however, in an impressive piece of work that demonstrates the skill of these young performers.
While there may be an element of self-doubt in the performers, Demo is a performance that demonstrates these fledgling performers have much to be proud of.
Photo by Mike Kwasniak