I am becoming increasingly convinced that some, if not many, people in the theatre industry must think extremely highly of plays that begin at a steady (or even a brisk) pace, before something drastic suddenly occurs that spins the show’s characters and their lives off onto another tangent. I call this sudden change of fortune ‘the critical incident’, so common to new plays, and here, during In/Out (A Feeling), what happens to Ollie (Nicholas Clarke), whilst eliciting sympathy amongst the audience, almost threatens to overshadow the main shocker that the overall narrative reveals.
I am still in two minds as to whether this benefits the production. On balance, it probably does: there’s nothing inherently wrong with having a multi-layered plot. I rather liked Ollie’s stoical attitude and lack of sentimentality in the face of such bad news, and possessing that rather British ability to see the humour in the pain.
I also wonder whether I’ve been too much of a good boy over the years – there was quite a lot in this play that I found difficult to relate to, with some colloquialisms for what I understood to be, um, ‘substances’ (that is, not the sort of drugs available from your local pharmacy) going completely over my head.
All of that really pales into insignificance, because there are four things that make this play heartily pleasurable to follow. Firstly, a strong and credible script from Andrew Maddock, which even includes blank verse and rhyming couplets. Either despite of or because of the poetry, the story is not difficult to understand. Secondly, a very convincing (if intense) Alex Reynolds as Blue – yep, there’s an apt description of her personal circumstances in that name. Thirdly, an animated and likeable character in Clarke’s Ollie. Ollie bounces around, telling a part of his story in one corner of this studio space (this production is ‘in the round’) before flitting across to the other side of the room. Back and forth, back and forth. Restless, y’see, as drug addicts sometimes are. Finally, both characters consistently make eye contact with members of the audience, drawing us in still further.
The themes explored in In/Out (A Feeling) are ultimately very dark and disturbing, but the celebratory atmosphere of its setting stops it from being depressing. “If this girl were a country, she’d be Antarctica!” cries an exasperated Ollie, speaking of Alex – but it becomes clear that she is searching for a way out from the sort of lifestyle she’s living.
This is one of those shows that I sat through, chuckling away at the punchlines, while its underlying message only hit home some time afterwards. Without ever coming close to being preachy or patronising, this is a show that successfully reminds its audiences that even in our glorious city of London, in this day and age, there are still people who are effectively enslaved. The reassuring thing is that assistance is available – the show’s ending is mercifully unembellished; its realism is far more powerful than a tidy happy-ever-after epilogue would have been.
There is a strong sense of authenticity in this play, which seems to me to have been carefully and thoroughly researched. This is a compelling production, tackling some difficult modern controversies. Human trafficking remains an issue – arguably it’s becoming more of an issue in these days of relatively cheap travel and ‘the global village’. It’s pleasing that this important topic is being explored on the London stage (and in conversation in the pub downstairs afterwards). I recommend this production, and can only echo the words of a theatregoer who attended a preview performance: “Just go see it!”
Review by Chris Omaweng
In/Out (A Feeling) is an explosive exploration into London’s sex trade, told through the perspective of the consumer and supplier. We are proud to be working in collaboration with Unseen, a charity working towards a world without slavery and supporting those affected.
Ollie is a man lost in a world of recreational drug use and health issues, Blue is a woman lost in our world. Together they share a feeling. They just don’t know how to let it out.
Alex Reynolds as Blue
Nicholas Clarke as Ollie
Producer Lonesome Schoolboy
Director Niall Phillips
Casting Director Lucy Hollis
Press & PR Lauren Gauge PR
IN/OUT (A FEELING)
Author: ANDREW MADDOCK
Director: NIALL PHILLIPS
At The Hope Theatre, Islington, N1 1RL