Trash by Littleberry Productions at The White Bear Theatre
The theatre is small, almost claustrophobically so, and currently disgusting. Ruptured bin bags are piled high in the corner, their unappealing contents strewn haphazardly across the floor and furniture – yes, there is a sofa in there somewhere too, albeit artistically strapped together with masking tape and covered in nameless horrors. The overall effect makes the nose wrinkle; this is definitely a student flat, only more so.
Confirming this impression, into the mess plunges a disparate group of equally messy individuals, making a dreadful cacophony by hammering and shaking various bits of abandoned hardware, the metallic clanging echoing deafeningly through the small space. This, apparently, is a bunch of student ‘Freegans’, people who live off reclaimed, scavenged and foraged food, and this din is their band, Jamtastic.
Their entrance sets the tone for the whole play; haphazard, energetic, frenetic, loud, and rather exhausting. The students themselves are charming; you can imagine spending a very entertaining evening in their company, though you would probably be glad to get home at the end of it. The cast just keeps on growing throughout the play as more and more of them erupt onto the stage. It is testament to Faye Bradley’s set design that the movement manages to remain fluid and natural, with so many bodies, ten in total, competing for space amid the mess, and to writer Tom Hunt that each of them is distinguishable from the others, with their own distinct personality and contribution. The actors deserve high praise for this too, managing to wring every last ounce of character and comedy from each line and gesture. Special mention must go to Craig Deuchar as Liam, the laddish, shameless leader of the pack, taking real pleasure in his own dubious hygiene and repulsive habits. James Stirling-Gillies as Curly Tom is the quieter, more sensitive member of the group, anxiously trying to protect his watercress plants from urinary assault by Little Tom, played with brilliant comic timing by the wonderfully rubber-faced Joseph Stevenson. Sophie Wardlow, emerging from the bin bag pile like Oscar The Grouch as the eccentric, trash-bedecked Vikki is a welcome and entertaining addition to the little group, strongly reminiscent of Ab Fab’s Bubble.
In the first scene we are also introduced to Nigel, a jovial, toffy media exec who is looking to do a radio programme about our Freegans, played with superbly awkward bafflement by Nigel Paddy. Maybe a plot theme is emerging? No. We then learn that their landlord, Neil, is horrified by their antics and mess, and is reaching the end of his tether. Will this provide the comic storyline? Again, no. Will the play maybe be an enviro-political comedy with a message, focussing on the damage we are doing to the planet and the necessity for reducing wastage? Yet again, the answer is no. Their band also disappears into the general chaos. The story, if it can really be called that, centres on the fact that Liam is leaving the house tomorrow, and his place will be taken by a French girl called Marie, who is unaware that she is joining a house of Freegans. The plot however is really just an excuse for a series of student-y shenanigans involving a loo seat, a stuffed walrus in lingerie, and some truly horrible looking peach-and-bin-juice home brew. And a lot of talking. Really – a lot. The dialogue is actually very funny and the delivery spot-on, but without any real point to it, and since the students spend a lot of time talking all at once and at the top of their voices, interspersed with running, jumping and falling, it all became a bit wearing after a while. All credit to them for keeping the energy up though; they must have been far more tired than we were by the end of it. The whole thing culminates in a wonderfully comic dinner party, which just about brings a sort of conclusion to the play.
Littleberry Productions is a relatively new company, set up by Phoebe Hunt and Cat Robey, whose aim is to discover and promote new writing and acting talent. If the level of the acting in Trash is anything to go by, on that front they are doing a fantastic job. I would, however, love to see what they made of some rather more meaningful writing, and I hope to do so in the future. I suspect that this is a company which is going places.
Review by Genni Trickett
7th April 2013