What exactly is meant by growing up? Does age really guarantee maturity? And what makes someone an ‘adult’? These questions and more are explored in “The Acid Test” at The Pleasance Theatre.
Three young ladies – Dana (Georgia Clarke-Day), Jessica (Rebecca Eve) and Ruth (Carrie Whitton) – share a flat somewhere in London. They are all around 21 and, although they have very different personalities, they are BFFs who constantly look out for and support each other through the dramas of life. Then one stormy Friday night it all changes. Ruth splits up with her pretentious arty boyfriend Twix and Dana has been given a startling offer from her boss Ben. In these circumstances there is only one sensible course of action – drink, drink and then drink some more. As the girls reach for the vodka, Jessica returns from a visit to her parents with her father Jim (David Bauckham) in tow. Jess’ mum Fiona has thrown Jim out, replacing him with a slightly younger, more ‘manly’ model and Jess has offered her dad a place to stay for a couple of nights. It really good to see such daughterly devotion here or is it? As Jim settles in and joins the girls in celebrating their joint status as major league losers, the atmosphere changes and, that enemy of having a good time, the truth, starts rearing its ugly head leading to fights, name calling, petulance and feet stamping from Jim, with the girls acting just as badly.
“The Acid Test” is an unusual play in many respects. Anya Reiss could have gone down a very easy road using highly stereotypical characters and situations to tell a simple and entertaining story. Instead, she has created a set of people that Jim himself describes as nothing special. However, Jim is wrong and these people are special because they are normal and unique in the same way that every person on the planet is. As with everyone else, the problem of the day is the most important one and they, like us, often can’t see the wood for the trees in their own lives. The difference between Jim and the girls boils down to one thing, age with which comes wisdom supposedly. Is it true in Jim’s case? As we learn more about him, you have to wonder. Yes, he is a typical dad – who manages to embarrass and alienate his daughter whilst bonding with her friends – but in reality he is a man just bumbling through life hoping for the best but expecting the worst. The script is crude, rude and very clever. As someone who has occasionally been an honorary girl at a sleepover I can definitely vouch for the authenticity of the language and content of the discussion.
Chris Lawson’s direction is spot on, even allowing the stage to be empty as characters go off to the kitchen, bathroom etc while still talking to each other. There is a wonderful sense of tension about Jim and his relationship with all three of the girls. In fact, during the interval, the discussion all around me centered on when/if the play would take a much anticipated, if dreaded turn. In fact, once again, the writing blind-sided the audience by avoiding the obvious and delivering something really unexpected. There was a great dynamic between the actors, particularly David and Rebecca who had some of the hardest and most intense exchanges of the piece, but Carrie’s Ruth was a marvelous example of a rather ditzy, wears her heart on her sleeve, drama queen whose opening dialogue with Georgia’s Dana really set the tone of the performance perfectly with their obsessions with themselves, each other and the need to be wanted. I loved the debunking of inspirational quotes – Jim making up life lessons using chopsticks and jeans – but also the real flashes of wisdom – Jim talks about waiting for that moment when one knows that one is really an adult – which really struck a chord amongst the more mature members of the audience. The ending is really intriguing. My initial thought was that it was a bit lazy and forced but, and this is why I try not to write a review straight afterwards, I realised that in fact the ending was a perfect reflection of life – particularly for Jim – where although there may be a blip in the road, you are still going to end up traveling along it.
Does “The Acid Test” answer the three questions I posed at the start of this review? Probably not and I honestly don’t know if they can be, but the reality is most people never plan to grow up and just intend to carry on facing whatever life throws at them, hopefully having a few laughs such as by seeing great shows like “The Acid Test” on the way.
Review by Terry Eastham
The Acid Test by Anya Reiss
Directed by Chris Lawson
Cast: Dana – Georgia Clarke-Day, Ruth – Carrie Whitton, Jess – Rebecca Eve, Jim – David Bauckham
The Acid Test- The quarter life crisis and the mid-life crisis collide over one explosive , vodka soaked evening
Dana, Ruth and Jess down shots to console the heart-broken, to comfort the anxious and just pass the time. Kicked out from the family home Jess’s Dad, Jim, invades the party with just as much recklessness as the girls. As the night passes and vodka bottles are emptied, Friday night in becomes high drama.
An unruly comedy asking if age equals maturity.
Pleasance Theatre from 5th to 7th March 2015
Sunday 8th March 2015