Wow! Where do I start? Written by Kae Tempest, Wasted is a show that ET was very keen on covering. And after sitting through this fast-paced 80-minute emotional rollercoaster, I can see why!
The theatre is smoky and dark as we enter, and Tony, played by Ruaridh Mollica is slumped against the wall with his guitar. It’s both confusing and intriguing. The atmosphere is intense, the lighting on point, and with a couple of musical instruments, the stage is set. As the story commences, we see four millennials, friends since childhood, and a reunion of sorts ensues. Rife with their feelings and interconnecting histories, one in particular plays a pivotal role in their lives.
The energy is palpable. They manipulate the mood with subtle and seamless adjustments in music and light intensity. Likewise, each scene change by the cast is with minimal movement of the musical instrument props (mainly the drums). I didn’t even notice how it happened. One minute we are in a club and next minute at a cafe. The audience is so engaged in the dialogue from the start that we are able to accept these casual scene changes with ease.
Tempest is a wordsmith extraordinaire. Like the physical setting, each act connects through the movement and poetic dialogue — almost like a rap. The storyline is in continuous flux as you follow the characters’ thoughts and conversations over the course of a day. The language is witty, descriptive, and in keeping with millennials. Even if you are not one yourself, you’d be hard-pressed not to picture the raves, parties, and mannerisms suggested in this gritty portrayal of London.
It’s an engaging and thought-provoking performance by all. Though not a comedy, the dialogue is peppered with great one-liners and comical facial expressions. This breaks the tension and intensity and has the audience laughing out loud or shaking their heads in acknowledgment. My initial worry that the cast appeared to be too young to play middle aged characters was fleeting, as the performances outshone the age discrepancy. We smile at Mollica who plays the sweet and optimistic Tony, and are invested in the dynamic between the happy-go-lucky Danny (Ted Reilly) and Charlotte (Isabella Verrico),the heartbroken teacher with big dreams. It’s Seraphina Beh’s performance of Temi that stands out as she brings a raw energy that is both compelling and dynamic. She controls the narrative, keeping you poised till the bubble bursts to expose their authentic emotions. There is no great unveiling at the end, but perhaps that is the intention.
There are so many raw and buried feelings in their lives that the characters’ only recourse is to get ‘wasted’ lest they face their demons. This leads on to some interesting twists as the story unfolds…and I’ll let that be a mystery for you to divine. It’s an emotional piece (I’d recommend carrying a tissue).
Wasted makes us question our own fears and dreams. As we sat in the pub afterwards to decompress, we asked ourselves: Have we held back and let go of our dreams and ambitions for the ‘safe’ and ‘known’? Are we brave enough to acknowledge the pasts that have shaped us? Do we appreciate and acknowledge the people in our lives? But as Danny says ‘It’s like air. You never know how much it means to you till you’re drowning’.
Produced by: MICA Theatre
Written by: Kae Tempest
Directed by: Toby Clarke
Lighting: Pablo Fernandez Bad
Composer: Rupert Cross
Wasted plays at Jack Studio until 3 December. Further information and bookings can be found here.