Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Theatre review: Fog

Actor Toby Wharton's first play is co-written with veteran playwright Tash Fairbanks, who was his mother's partner, and was born out of piece they wrote for his (successful) audition for RADA. So as Wharton was raised by a lesbian couple Fog can't be too directly autobiographical, dealing as it does with problems faced by children raised in care. After his mother's death, Gary (Wharton) and his sister Lou (Annie Hemingway) were left in care and their father Cannon (Victor Gardener) spent the next decade in the army. As the play opens, Cannon is suddenly back in town, renting a flat at the top of an East London estate, from where Gary can see the care home he spent many unhappy years in.

Although it still betrays the fact that it was written as a showcase for its lead actor, Fog also offers opportunities for the rest of the cast to make their mark. Gary's relationship with best friend Michael (Benjamin Cawley) is nicely played, and heartbreaking when cracks appear in it. Kanga Tanikye-Buah provides good comic relief as Michael's businesslike sister, and the whole play has moments of lightness to balance out the pretty dark accusations it makes about the care system. Ultimately of course it is the lead who's the most fleshed-out character, and Wharton gives us a teenager with an aggressive, cocky attitude (the title comes from the MC name Gary unsuccessfully demands he be called by) which barely conceals the fragile child he still is. At times the play is a bit heavy-handed with its politics, and sometimes sticks with the same groups of characters for longer than is interesting. But there's certainly some affecting stuff in Ché Walker's production too, and by the end you feel for Gary and his likely bleak outlook.

Fog by Tash Fairbanks and Toby Wharton is booking until the 28th of January at the Finborough Theatre.

Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes straight through.

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