Every theatre company is looking for a new angle to entice the paying public to hand over their cash and come see their latest production. Sometimes these work really well, sometimes they don’t and sometimes these ideas really shouldn’t work but turn out to be absolutely fantastic. For example, take two one act plays, then use the same two actors and exactly the same script for both. This then was the idea that Fictive Theatre came up with for their production Scarborough which I saw recently at the Courtyard Theatre, Hoxton.
In a dingy hotel room on the coast in North Yorkshire, a young lad by the name of Daz (Charlie Tantam) has just come out of the shower and joins his partner Lauren (Ava Pickett) on the bed. Daz is very excitable about being in this hotel room and is looking forward to a weekend of fun with the love of his life. It all sounds very idyllic but, of course there is a rather large set of flies in the ointment. For a start, Daz is only fifteen and Lauren is nearly thirty. Coupled with the age difference is the fact that Lauren is a teacher at Daz’s school. Lauren is very aware of the difficulties of her situation and is nervous about leaving the hotel room in case anyone sees them. Daz on the other hand is a normal teenage boy and wants to go out on the town showing off his attractive girlfriend. Is there any way that their two conflicting priorities can be resolved?
After the interval, we returned to the same hotel room where two people are lying together on the bed. They are mucking around and generally having a good time. Their names are Beth (Ava Pickett) and Aiden (Charlie Tantam) and they seem very happy in each other’s company. It very quickly transpires that Beth is a fifteen year old schoolgirl and Aiden double her age and a Beth’s schoolteacher. Beth is very relaxed about things while Aiden is a perpetual worrier, only relaxing when in the arms of his young companion.
Scarborough was quite an amazing play in so many respects. In our society, there are often standard reactions to events which make the news. For example I remember being at school when a story broke about a young boy having a sexual relationship with his female teacher. The reaction of most of us was that the boy was a lucky devil and was probably having a great time of it with the older woman. However, when a similar story came up – this time with a male teacher and female pupil – the reaction was the complete opposite. The consensus was that the teacher was a filthy individual who should, at the very least, be locked away for the rest of his life. Writer Fiona Evans has done a fantastic job in putting together a single script that covers both scenarios and allows the audience to question their view of these events. When I left the theatre, and in discussing the show with my housemate this morning, I was certain in my own mind as to the relationships I had just seen. Whether this betrays my own prejudices or not, I really believe that in both stories, the female protagonist was the one in charge of the other person’s life. For example, at the end, when the ‘child’ says they will protect the secret of the teacher “memory erased” I believed Daz but was convinced that Beth would be round to the Headmaster first thing Monday morning.
Director Simon Paris has done a fantastic job at utilising the script to great effect to convey the two stories in completely different and very effective ways. Credit also must go to the fine performances by Ava and Charlie – both of whom played their parts superbly. In the very small performance area, with the audience on all four sides of Madelana Iwanska’s set, it really felt as if we were in the room with them as they went through their stories. This did at times feel a bit voyeuristic but really added to the intensity of the plays and the lives of the characters being examined.
I was really surprised how much I enjoyed Scarborough. The use of a single script and only two actors on the whole worked pretty well. The only negative was that in the schoolboy/teacher relationship, Ava really didn’t look old enough to be twice the age of her lover. However, in the schoolgirl/teacher scene, the age gap was more believable. I also would have liked the bed to have been set with an old candlewick bedspread rather than a fairly nice and modern duvet which seemed slightly out of place in the sort of hotel the teacher/pupil would go to for their ‘dirty weekend’. These minor niggles aside, I thought Scarborough was a great story, beautifully told and acted and a thoroughly great presentation.
Review by Terry Eastham
Scarborough by Fiona Evans
At The Courtyard Theatre in Hoxton on the 8th and 9th of October, 2015
Lauren/Beth Ava Pickett
Daz/Aiden Charlie Tantam
Set/Costume Design Magdalena Iwanska
Lighting Designer Guido Lueches
Poster Designer Amy Laker
Stage Manager Charlotte Wilson
Director Simon Paris