By Tom Barry
From the postmodern lyricism of contemporary writer Kate Tempest, Wasted is a bold, iconoclastic statement of intent, against convention both theatrical and societal. It skirts ever-relevant issues of identity, hedonism and misspent youth, silhouetted by the towers and tenements of Tempest’s native London.
At just over an hour, Wasted moves at a breakneck pace to keep its actors and their audience on their toes, and as disoriented as the characters themselves by the world changing too fast around them; in fact, the characters of Ted, Charlotte and Danny are more bewildered by their lives and their listlessness when sober than when intoxicated. The play succeeded severally in making me feel as ill as if I were part of the action in reality. The three young friends (Cullum Ball, Katie Sharp and Ted Weston), thrown together by chance and circumstance, swap constantly between the ensemble cast, supported by the mysterious and charismatic Tony (Jared More) who serves as the dramatic intermediary between the stage and its world. They all drink, drug and otherwise anaesthetise themselves senseless to avoid confronting their own crushing quarter-life crises, and the ensemble succeed in appearing at once plausibly vapid and endearingly adrift.
The stage lies bare of set and furnishings, giving an unobstructed view of the perfectly observed, psychedelic designs by Lucy-Lula Poulton that splash vibrantly across every wall, a hybrid of graffiti-dilapidation and drug-induced hallucination. I now recognise the assorted calling-cards of the the Frost-Manning aesthetic: fluid transitions, extensive lighting design, and multimedia used sparingly, all coalesce to form the show’s foundation, but play a smaller role than in previous productions, and are a natural fit to augment the naturally establishment ambience.
Wasted feels caught somewhere between a surreal, oh-so-meta commentary on the present day, and a fully-fleshed narrative with a plot that progresses and characters that live it. The tone of the piece is always interesting, and the performance scintillating, but sounds throughout like the same voice. Written by a more experienced playwright, I suspect that Tempest’s intentions would bleed through the piece more palpably, and her characters differentiate in more ways than simply how they relate to each other. But perhaps that is her point: that we really don’t have much that separates us, and that’s part of our problem. She is a far better poet than a philosopher, delve too deeply into the meaning behind the musicality of the speech and you’ll be disappointed. But then, lost would be the electricity, poetry and sheer stylishness of the language at their lips and fingertips. A worthy addition to the Drama Barn’s tradition of eclectic, experimental performance.
Wasted by Kate Tempest, performing at the Drama Barn tonight and tomorrow at 7:30pm. Tickets available on the door and online (£4/5).