Review: In the Wake Of
Image: Faded Ink Productions
Michael Black - Jimmy
Simon Morgan - Razza
Mickey Mason - Rob
Rachel Morris - Chelsea
New piece of writing set on a run down estate in Kingston Upon Hull.
Rob and Chelsea are a seemingly content couple; ordinary, working class, full of routine and reality TV.
They know what they like.
But what should be one of the happiest moments of their lives turns into a nightmare when Jimmy suddenly turns up at the house.
He's just been released from prison and is out for revenge.
They all must face up to their lies, buried secrets and past mistakes.
How far are we prepared to go to protect the ones we love?
Can broken relationships ever really be fixed once the damage has been done?
A play which pulls no punches and examines the extremes people can go to when push comes to shove.
A couple quarrelling - or mildly bickering might be a more apt description - starts this morose yet realistic drama about three young people who have become entangled by a past event.
One of them - Chelsea - has no knowledge of that event, at least at the start of the play.
But Jimmy and Rob were both complicit in an incident which happened more than 4 years prior to the scenes in the present that we witness.
Now, after serving a prison sentence as a consequence of the event, Jimmy is back to see his old mate, Rob.
At first, Jimmy leads both Rob and the audience up the garden path - suckering us all into believing that he's only in need of a place to stay for a few days while he gets himself on his feet.
But it's clear before very long that Jimmy wants something more from Rob, though it takes a while for the penny to drop and, when it does, there's more to it than merely the opportunity for revenge.
Playing as part of this year's Camden Fringe - now in full swing - this short play stands out because it is a gritty and well-told drama, with a highly realistic fight scene (well orchestrated by fight director Paul O'Shea) towards the end.
However, the basic plot device seems to ring a bell from some other play or film, though I can't put my finger on exactly where I've encountered it before.
That doesn't matter too much since the play has other things to say, and none of them are either pleasant or optimistic.
Writer Michael Black also ably tackles the lead role of Jimmy, presenting a manipulative, unpredictable and possibly psychotic brute.
In fact, he's essentially more angry child than a rational adult, barely able to control his inner rage.
The play as a whole feels authentically believable, but I wasn't convinced of the necessity for a fourth character - Simon Morgan's seemingly naive Razza - a friend who turns up just as revelations are surfacing in the exposition.
Though he initially appears unassumingly ingenuous he, like Jimmy, shows a brutalised uncaring side of his persona in his story about his treatment of a howling cat.
That doesn't really add much to what we find in Jimmy, even if it points to a wider malaise.
Mr Black doesn't leave us with very much sense of hope at the end of his short play (his debut in London), even if Mickey Mason's Rob ultimately shows some sense of responsibility.
That lack of hope, however, seems wholly realistic - given the current climate of attitudes and opinion in society where those less able to cope with life are denied opportunities and access to resources to help turn their lives around.
The final scene describes a depressing cycle of hopelessness - not only for society as a whole but for those who, sadly, have to endure it.
That sense of pessimism seems the big and most important message of the play and it is an affecting, if despairingly grim conclusion to a blunt drama that is, nonetheless, certainly worth seeing.
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ActDrop listing for The Lion & Unicorn Theatre
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