I’m not sure whether I’m getting ‘old’ before my time but I found much of the music featured in the early stages of Poll Function uncomfortably loud. I suppose it’s better than struggling to hear it at all, though my initial displeasure was only compounded by dialogue that was frankly puerile – even if occasionally amusing.
This eventually gives way, however, to what becomes a hard-hitting narrative. It even becomes rather beautiful. Talk about breaking an audience in gently: the cartoonish masks and childlike phrases (“Hyper! Hyper! Windscreen wiper!”) are soon replaced by a tragedy, and then serious reflection. For all the poncing about and sharp insults hurled at both acquaintances and strangers, this is an absorbing coming-of-age story. Granted, it never stops being all over the place, but this is only reflective of real life, where things are ultimately never completely straightforward.
Neither character is named either on the cast list or, to the best of my recollection, in the show, though if pushed I could resort to calling them Mate 1 and Mate 2, given their predilection throughout to call each other ‘mate’. Anyway, the complications of adult life leave Jon Pascoe’s character distinctly empty, and wanting to go back to more innocent times. Greg Shewring’s character seems more accepting of the future, but hardly moves to disagree with his, um, mate.
Masks aside, there’s little else in the way of set and props, save for two wooden stools, thus leaving the production entirely in the hands of the dialogue to carry it through. There isn’t much I can personally relate to West Country living, though there’s no reason not to believe the various names and landmarks name-dropped aren’t accurate, or at least euphemisms for actual places. I did think, though, that this play may still have been better set in the United States, where an 18-year-old can vote in an election but cannot (by law, at least) consume alcohol until the age of 21. There’s another part of me, though, that thinks there aren’t enough stories in theatre of British youngsters who aren’t exactly ‘straight A’ students.
As it is, it’s a moving (in more than one sense of the word – the two characters seem to spend a lot of time in a car) piece of theatre, with much to think about for both the upcoming generation and their parents. In just over an hour we are taken through a whole gamut of emotions that some plays take twice as long to run through – and some don’t even manage that. For a first production from The Project Theatre Company, this is a triumph.
Review by Chris Omaweng
Two West Country plonkers return to suburbia and wreak havoc on childhood dreams and a system they believed would bring them future opportunity. Confined within a car for most of the journey, old secrets are aired out and open questions are asked about who they have become since leaving the suburbs. They fight, spit, cry and kill but still find it hard to accept their feelings are only human. . .
23rd February 2016 – 28th February 2016
StageSpace – Pleasance London
Suitable for ages 16 and above