Pros: Jim Cartwright finds an interesting way to present the malaise of young generations.
Cons: A patchy delivery in some scenes. The loud laughter coming from a section of the audience sometimes spoiled the comic effect of the lines.
After a critically acclaimed world premiere at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2015, RAZ arrives in the West End for a four-week run at the intimate Trafalgar Studio Two. Shane (James Cartwright) appears centre stage wearing ‘Superman’ underpants, framed by a blinding blue light. ‘Friday night, first thing, the tanning shop, a good nine-minute blaster’, he begins. In the subsequent 50-minute monologue, we follow him through an evening of booze, drugs and ‘birds’, portrayed as the only purpose in life of a young, middle-class generation that is still living at home with its parents.
The absence of an elaborate set is compensated by the use of some props, and the contribution of lights and sound becomes essential in establishing the background for the story. Unfortunately, James Cartwright delivered a somewhat patchy execution, alternating the excellent presence on stage during the night club scenes with more unconvincing sequences. His acting felt unnatural and some lines sounded as if they had been read by a voiceover. Walking around the stage, he didn’t follow any reasonable pattern, transmitting an appearance of nervousness, which little suited the overconfident Shane. The actor seemed unaware of the semi-circular auditorium and seldom directed his speech to the sides, flattening the performance against the back wall, to the detriment of the audience’s engagement. Having said this, I had the impression that there was a conspicuous group of admirers in the room, given the exaggeratedly loud laughter throughout the show and the clamorous cheering at the end, which made my whole experience a bit anticlimactic.
On the other hand, Jim Cartwright – note: Jim is the playwright, James is the actor – produces a well-written script, which has suitable use of slang, rhymes and the dirtiest ‘street talk’. RAZ is a fun piece of theatre and some of its jokes are genuinely good, forcing me, at last, to join the chorus of supporters with my loud laughter. A greater commitment on the side of the performer would have contributed to enhance the informal and spontaneous vibe of this original and outspoken play.
Under a veil of light entertainment, RAZ exposes a dark spiral of alcohol, illegal substances and easy sex, which threatens to swallow the most exposed and vulnerable sections of our community and requires awareness in order to be avoided. The author’s choice of making this dangerous mix look fun at first, gradually revealing its damaging consequences, is brave but clever and, ultimately, achieves its target brilliantly on highlighting the malaise of young generations.
Author: Jim Cartwright
Director: Anthony Banks
Producer: Ellie Browning
Box Office: 0844 871 7632
Booking Link: http://www.atgtickets.com/shows/raz/trafalgar-studios/#buy-now
Booking Until: 16 April 2016