It is Bradford 2012, where Stacey (Monique Ashe-Palmer) and Jen (Yasmin Taheri) are best friends coming to the end of their school days. We join them in the queue for a nightclub. The girls encourage the audience to join them in a shot and find a couple of willing volunteers to share the dance floor with them for the timeless classic that is Carly Rae Jepson’s ‘Call Me Maybe’. Music is an integral part of £1 Thursdays’ setting, blending the curated selections of writer Kat Rose-Martin with carefully chosen tracks to complement the time and place
One of their unbreakable rituals is £1 Thursday, where they put on their best clubbing outfits and heels and head out to Club Ocean. The pair dance and flirt and drink before staggering home in the early hours. £1 Thursdays are the only nights they can afford to go out, so this takes priority above any idea of school the next day. Cheap vodka and colourful homemade mixtures snuck in in plastic bottles fuel competition to pull the most, with notes on boys – and the occasional girl – shared in the ladies’ loos late at night. There are a lot of laughs here as we follow the two over several Thursday evenings.
Ethan Cheek’s effective set design consists of those ubiquitous tape barriers found outside of nightclubs, with tape pulled and rearranged to move from queue to club. Two rails allow for large curtains to stand in for the toilet cubicles, costume changes and highly funny moments of the two very drunk young women sharing a stall, not caring about anyone queuing or about any bouncers wanting them out for being too drunk.
Although sharing space at the nightclub, the pair’s futures seem to be branching off in different directions. Stacey, a talented dancer, dreams of turning this into a career, while Jen is “Oxbridge smart” and applies to study pure maths at university. She convinces Stacey to also apply, with the thought that they can continue their drinking and clubbing no matter where they end up, as long as they are together. Both young women are working class, with the text careful to emphasise this is not rough, but that they graft and take pride in who they are. Jen feels this limitation, in particular as the first in her family to even apply to university and feels very out of place when she goes for an interview.
Under Vicky Moran’s direction, both Ashe-Palmer and Taheri give sterling performances throughout and Rose-Martin’s script spends a lot of time really showing us the strong bond between Stacy and Jen. Their friendship is warm and real, and wickedly funny. When cracks start to appear as their paths start to diverge, and then when it comes asunder, Taheri excels, vividly portraying the profound sense of betrayal and hurt Jen feels.
Joseph Ayre does not get much depth to work with as Nathan, Stacey’s considerably older boyfriend but in a short scene when he doubles as Tristan to interview Jen for admission to university, he gets a moment to shine. Sian Breckin plays Leanne, Jen’s mother who also cares for and looks out for Stacey and is also very good though the one-note menopausal joke continues too long.
Set against the backdrop of a working-class community, £1 Thursdays really captures the essence of resilience, humour, and the amazing strength that comes from genuine, warm, friendship between two young people on the cusp of moving into adult life.
Written by Kat Rose-Martin
Directed by Vicky Moran
Set and Costume design by Ethan Cheek
£1 Thursdays plays at Finborough Theatre until 22 December. Further information and tickets can be found here.