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Staying Faithful by Chocolate Chilli Theatre – Review

Staying Faithful LeafletIn Staying Faithful at Theatre Utopia in Croydon, “Chazza” is sleeping with “Fletch” although she had been sleeping with “Zac” who’s been sleeping with “Jess” who fancies “Hope”. “April” isn’t sleeping with anyone as she’s too busy trying out various religions although she does end up marrying “Fletch”! There’s a touch of Arthur’s Schnitzler’s La Ronde in Staying Faithful although the circle isn’t really completed in the way it is in Schnitzler’s play.

The play is basically about a group of 16-year-olds going through the angst that every teenager goes through as they grow up. There are the universal themes of sex, religion, philosophy, your place in the world etc. and they’re all tackled at one time or another during the play. And that’s one of the problems – there are just too many strands that never get explored properly even though the piece is two hours long (including an interval). Philosophers such as Descartes and Schopenhauer are dropped into the dialogue but they’re not really explored in a meaningful way and just seem superfluous to the story.

There’s also a lot of rambling dialogue about religion – after all it is called Staying Faithful. “Hope” is a committed Christian, “April” isn’t sure what she is, so tries out several religions and for some reason, “Jess” and “Zac” are Jewish although their religion isn’t relevant to their story.

There’s also a lot of talk about sex and coming to terms with their sexuality. “Chazza” will sleep with almost anyone, “Jess” has had a fling with “Zac” but fancies “Hope” and “Hope” the committed Christian is totally confused about what she is. “Fletch” who’s sees himself as a bit of a stud, has had a homosexual encounter behind the bike shed with a fellow pupil so isn’t sure if he’s straight, bi or gay but is game for anything or anyone.

One of the straplines on the flyer that advertises the play is “Growing up is very confusing” and I’m afraid this play is too. It plays with time and place but with a minimal set and the occasional costume change, it’s hard to know where we are and when we are. Then to confuse things even more, there’s a twist in the plot that comes towards the end that just seems tacked on. There had been hints that it was coming throughout the play but they were quite subtle and this curve ball didn’t quite gel with the rest of the piece.

The young cast tried hard but at times their inexperience told and they fluffed lines, interrupted each other and spoke far too quickly – but that could just be the result of insufficient rehearsal time as the play is only on for three days.

Rosanna Lyne is a young writer who should be encouraged as there’s a lot to be admired in this play but as with the actors, her inexperience shows and she’s tried to pack too much into Staying Faithful. Lyne has directed it too and that’s probably a step too far. With some judicious pruning and an experienced director, this could have been a much more memorable, thoughtful and poignant piece about how hard it is to come to terms with growing up.

2 gold stars

Review by Alan Fitter

Hope. Love. Laughs.
Growing up is confusing.
Hope is torn between her love and her faith.
But aren’t they the same thing?
Staying Faithful is about learning how to balance identity, belief and desires in adolescence and how that shapes who we become.

Chocolate Chilli Theatre
Chocolate Chilli is a new theatre group based in Croydon, with the aim to put women centre-stage. Research by the Guardian in 2012, in collaboration with Elizabeth Freestone of Pentabus Theatre, shows that women were badly under represented, with a persistent 2:1 male-to-female ratio*. Things are improving, but we still have a long way to go, with actresses still frequently sidelined to playing the mother or wife of the central character. Whether it be new writing or classics, we promise only ever to tell stories about interesting and provoking female characters. Bold, spicy stories everyone can get their teeth into – that’s Chocolate Chilli.

Staying Faithful
A new play by Rosanna Lyne
Thursday 23rd March- Friday 24th March 7.30pm
Saturday 25th March 3pm + 7.30pm
Theatre Utopia, Matthews Yard, 1 Matthews Yard, Croydon, Surrey, CR0 1FF


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