This is a challenging piece of political theatre by the author of Shopping and Fucking, Mark Ravenhill. The play follows political activist Nick, as he attempts to readjust to life in the late 1990s after having spent twenty years in prison. Alongside his story runs a loosely connected narrative following lives of a group of young friends struggling to find meaning in the supposedly “happy world” of drugs, sex and booze which they fight so hard to maintain.
Performances are generally very good with the cast eschewing stereotypes to bring out the depth and complexity of these confused and often contradictory characters. Sean Lithgow is particularly successful in his portrayal of Russian party boy Victor, instilling his character with humour, strength and a touching vulnerability. Andy Ellis, as designer, has done a superb job with the set. Careful, well thought-out lighting creates three distinct worlds – particularly impressive given the small size of the stage and its proximity to the audience.
There are inherent problems with the script of this play, the biggest being the unevenness between the two created worlds, with Tim’s “happy world” being much more stimulating than that of the older political trio’s stale, bitter existence. Nick, played by Nick Cheales, soon becomes wearisome, with his dialogue resembling one long bitter tirade against society. He does not appear to develop, as the other characters do, through the course of the play. Although he eventually reaches some form of comfort, it appears to be due to resignation, as opposed to any kind of shift in opinion or acknowledgment of wrongdoing. However, fans of Ravenhill, and of political theatre in general, will enjoy Edinburgh Graduate Theatre Group’s skilful and well thought-out production.