Pros: A complex, clever, and well-developed piece featuring a great character.
Cons: Gratuitous pop-culture references and some inconsistency in age portrayal.
Act one – it is 1984. The year is conjured up by references to music, television, and popular culture. Tina is a fourteen-year-old Asian girl, academic and feisty with a bright future ahead of her. She faces many of the obstacles of girls her age – friendships, fashion, boys and parental relationships are all angst ridden and confusing. But Tina has even more complex issues to confront. The conflict between her mother’s traditional views and her desire to fit in with her best friend, Sharon’s social scene is heightened when she learns about her father’s affair with that same friend. She is totally alienated from everything that is important to her by the betrayal. As we walk with her through a time that will change her life forever, we learn that secrets and heartbreak shape her fate irrevocably.
Act two – 2004. Tina is a grown woman with her own daughter, now fourteen. We find her a caring, loving single mother, doing her best to give her daughter a supported and happy start in life. She works hard, but lives in poverty, dreaming of dancing to success in the school ‘Strictly’ competition. She illustrates her relationships with her father, her daughter and the well to do women she works for and we find her still alienated by her circumstances. Secrets and betrayal still dominate her life as she tries to distance herself from the events of the past. A brave heart and a strong spirit are almost enough to see her through.
Fourteen is a smart and sensitive one woman show with strong themes and a complex story. Tina, played by Yasmin Wilde, is a genuine and likeable character and her imperfections make her all the more real, generating warmth and empathy from the audience. The other characters that shape her life, her mother, father, and best friend are all clearly identifiable and her hometown, Watford, is brilliantly evoked through descriptive dialogue. There is a lot going on in this simple yet effective setting – sensitive issues surrounding cultural differences, mother-daughter relationships, sexual awakening and the betrayal of her beloved father are handled without sentimentality. It has an edgy atmosphere and the very real and relatable depiction of Tina’s circumstances hold interest and connection with the audience.
The two decades, 1984 and 2004 are defined by a series of references to popular culture, food and politics. There are very many such references, perhaps a few too many, as I felt that at times they seemed forced, and interrupted the natural flow of the monologue. There were also times when I found myself thinking “a fourteen year old just wouldn’t say that” as the language was too mature and deliberate. This doesn’t detract from Wilde’s portrayal though, which is energetic and perspicuous; Tina’s personality shines through from the girl to the woman with resilience and resignation.
The quality of this production is wonderful, as has always been my experience at the Watford Palace. The stage design and direction is fantastic, and I liked the pauses between scenes as it gave me some time to digest the drama as it unfolded. This is a heartfelt story with some challenging issues, and is really worth watching.
Author: Gurpreet Kour Bhati
Director: Brigit Larmour
Booking Until: 24th May
Box Office: 01923 225 671
Booking Link: http://www.watfordpalacetheatre.co.uk/page/3087/Book-Online