Pros: The dialogue is sharp and delivered with impeccable timing by the cast.
Cons: Elements of soap-opera-style drama seem unnecessary and superfluous.
“What do you want to become when you’re older?” is a question we’ve all been asked. It’s usually reserved for the young. It implies possibility, potential, a future where you could be an anything. But then at some point – perhaps after finishing school or for others upon leaving university – the question changes. “What do you do?” people begin to ask. More than just a bland dinner party icebreaker, the question marks a shift in what is expected of you. No longer can you say, “I want to be a doctor”, “I want be a pilot”, people expect you to be something now.
Rosie Kellett’s well-written play examines this liminal point of young adulthood, when the expanse of teenage possibility gives way to the singular reality of adulthood. Four fresh-faced strangers have just moved into a generic East London flat share. It could be Dalston, it could be Shoreditch, but judging from the tenants’ occupations – a failed semi-professional footballer, a struggling musician, a nanny and a call centre worker – it’s probably Hackney Wick.
Each character has discovered that a large shadow lies between the life they envisaged as a child, and the grim reality of the present. Ryan, a one time Leyton Orient reserve squad player who now cleans rooms at an Ibis hotel in Bow, is having a particularly hard time of it. So is his flatmate, Helen. She works in a call centre unsuccessfully trying to pedal broadband upgrades to angry homeowners, and all for minimum pay. In fact, all the protagonists are struggling, except perhaps for Anna, who’s secured generous backing from the bank of mum and dad.
Skint is not a high-octane drama. It’s billing as play about “one night [that] can change your life,” is misleading. Kellet’s crisp script deals largely with the mundane and everyday, offering funny observations about life as a young adult in London. And thank god. This is where the play excels. The dialogue is witty, sharp and full of comic musings on everything from Nandos to pescatarians. In comparison the few bits of soap-opera-style drama feel superfluous; tacked on to provide unnecessary narrative thrust.
Skint uses little in the way of props and furnishings. The stage is bare save for a giant monopoly board, a reminder of the characters’ constant and unsuccessful striving to get ahead. The austere production combined with the imposing venue in the vaults beneath Waterloo station, with very loud and audible trains charging overhead, should reasonably have dented the believability of the play. It’s difficult to engross oneself when the seven o’clock from Guildford has just arrived. But this was not the case. I found the production engaging throughout. The cavernous brickwork, more suited to a Gothic horror tale, provided scant distraction. This, I think, is a testament to the sharpness of the actors and the wit of the playwright.
Skint is not the most original play. Young London-dwelling twenty-somethings are perhaps the most well documented cohort of modern Britain. Popular culture abounds with books, articles and TV programmes about them. But Rosie Kellet’s play is funny enough to rise above its hackneyed subject matter. It provides a cleverer than your average take on young adult London life.
Written and produced by: Rosie Kellet
Directed by: Jamie Jackson
Design: Anna Reid
Assistant design: Miranda Keeble
Lighting Design: Robert Cooke
Booking until: This show’s run has now ended.