Bradford 2012, and Club Ocean have a special offer of £1 entry every Thursday night, if you arrive early. For seventeen-year-old Jen (Yasmin Taheri) and best friend Stacey (Monique Ashe-Palmer), this is THE night of the week for ‘chart’ music as well as classics from the past such as Mr Brightside, SexyBack, Eminem and Spice Girls. Both are ‘working class’ and have it hard but they take pride in who they are. Jen is bright, but comes from a one-parent family where money has always been tight and where ‘Higher Education’ is a concept never even dreamed of. Stacey’s talent is for dancing, at which she really excels. Jen seems to ‘pick up’ every man she comes across whereas Stacey is more circumspect. As the play progresses we follow their loves and lives, their successes and failures.
Yasmin Taheri is quite simply superb as Jen. She totally inhabits the role physically, her malleable face being used subtly to express emotion and her stance always reflecting her inner thoughts. Taheri has clearly lived with Jen for some time and instinctively knows how she would react in any situation. She imbues the role with much more motivation and depth than is apparent from the script. An example is the interview she has with a professor at Newcastle University which is very realistic, amusing and, above all, poignant. Joseph Ayre is excellent in the role of Tristan the young lecturer, all the time playing devil’s advocate to Jen’s rather brusque questions and answers.
Her mother Leanne, is also a subtle and moving portrayal by Sian Breckin, suffering from the effects of the menopause, but still able to find time, not only for daughter Jen, but also for Stacey. The duologue they have towards the end of the play (Act Two Scene eleven) is very human, very touching. If only we could all have a mother like Leanne!
Monique Ash-Palmer is very believable as Stacey, especially in her scenes with boyfriend Nathan, but it is very difficult to see why anyone would want to have him as a boyfriend as he just seems unpleasant without the saving grace of being handsome or in any way ‘sexy’. Ayre makes the most of this part, but it seems underwritten and two-dimensional.
Interesting settings by Ethan Cheek take us quickly and believably from the dance floor of Club Ocean to its toilets and to the sexual health clinic of, presumably, Bradford Royal Infirmary; Rajiv Pattani provides some very bright disco style lighting and Roly Botha the music tracks!
As I have intimated above, in Kat Rose-Martin’s new, well-researched, play there are some very powerful moments, especially in the second half, that provide, especially in the final scene, some striking moments of physical theatre, and the actors and director, Vicky Moran have succeeded in giving the piece direction and flow so that the audience is carried along, always wanting to know what will happen to the various protagonists. At 105 minutes without an interval, the play seems slightly too long but I was completely involved from the start, even if I was not convinced about the audience participation! Warmly recommended!!
Review by Jon Groves
17 year olds Jen and Stacey are best friends. Since forever.
Stacey always dreamed of being a dancer. And she’s actually got the talent for it. Only her school career advisor hasn’t even been to London, let alone heard of Urdang.
Jen is smart. Like Oxbridge smart. But all ‘smart’ gives her is the ability to see that there’s no use trying to change the story prewritten for her, growing up in an underfunded and forgotten Bradford in the 2010s.
They only have one place they can escape to… Club Ocean on a Thursday night.
Director – VICKY MORAN
Set and Costume Designer – ETHAN CHEEK
Lighting Designer – RAJIV PATTANI
Sound Designer – ROLY BOTHA
Movement Director – NADIA SOHAWON
Intimacy Director – RANIAH AL-SAYED
Fight Director – SAM BEHAN
Wellbeing Support – STACEY PERMAUL
Stage Manager – REUBEN BOJANG
Presented by Julia Blomberg for £1 Thursdays Ltd in association with Neil McPherson for the Finborough Theatre.