Pros: The standout performances by James Rallison and Sarah Bryan who effortlessly switch between being serious and comical.
Cons: The message, despite being nicely packaged up, is vague and lacking in depth.
The Union Jack is projected against the wall, and its reflection shimmers in the pool of dirty water on the tiny stage. It heralds the play the audience is about to see: an image of Britain mirrored in the performance, and not a hugely positive image. Performed brilliantly by James Rallison and Sarah Bryan, Made in Britain explores some of the issues young people in 21st century Britain are facing in a compelling if not always coherent manner.
The beginning is strong. Both characters take their places on chairs standing in the dirty water, and tell their respective stories under bright spotlights that make it seem as though the audience were interrogating them. Danny and Nina come from distinctive, but both difficult, backgrounds. Danny is tormented by the memory of his father, who, he says, is in no way to blame – though for what, we do not know yet. Nina was a student, until she abandoned university for a job at Gap.
The script, written by Ella Carmen Greenhill, is clever und funny, and the stories that Danny and Nina tell are so recognizable that the audience is constantly nodding along. Everybody will understand Danny’s story of the playground bully whom all the kids pray to avoid every morning, and of going conker collecting with his father on the first day of autumn. Nina, meanwhile, ponders whether it’s wrong to want to be liked by people, and tells us of how a little part of her died the day she got her job as a sales assistant.
When Nina’s mother falls seriously ill, Nina takes a six hour bus to London to find her father, who disappoints her yet again and fails to help. Here, Nina meets Danny. Significant words are exchanged, which ultimately lead to the fatal ending.
There are some beautifully poetic as well as powerful moments in the play, and it is at its most sincere when Danny and Nina are retelling stories of their childhood and daily life. Ultimately, however, the performance does not manage to tell us much about young people’s frustrations and problems in today’s society. I don’t feel that the events leading up to the end justified the devastating outcome. It is clear that Danny is deeply frustrated, angry and full of a sense of hopelessness, but exactly where this feeling comes from remains uncertain – except for rather vague references to the fact that we live in a “f***ed up society” where milk is more expensive than beer. Similarly, Nina’s character does not really develop and give one a sense of direction and understanding.
This is a pity, as there are plenty of tangible issues that young people in the UK are facing today that would do well to be explored in more depth. That said, Rallison and Bryan give bravura performances, and the set is memorable. It’s an entertaining, at times beautiful piece of theatre that is just a bit too vague to be convincing.
Director: Jonathan O’Boyle
Writer: Ella Carmen Greenhill
Producer: Sarah Bryan
Box Office: 0844 412 4307
Booking Until: 11 January 2015